VALRICO — It’s a sound that many residents living along Nature’s Way Boulevard say is all too familiar.
Engines revving and then the sound of motorcycles and cars flooring the gas pedal on a 30-mile-per-hour roadway often wake up residents in the middle of the night.
The theory, according to some residents and homeowner association presidents, is the practice is an attempt to light up the road’s flashing signs with the highest speed possible, although a Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman said deputies had never heard of the situation or any other complaints about speeders.
The two flashing speed signs are located at each end of Nature’s Way Boulevard.
"It’s a game with the kids. It’s been going on for years," said Kit Werremeyer, president of the Bloomingdale Village Homeowner’s Association.
But for the people who live in the neighborhoods along the 3-mile road that loops off of Culbreath Road, there’s no game.
"Almost every night, between 9:30 and 11 p.m., some people (are) on racing motorcycles with loud exhaust, speed and race up and down the road at very dangerously high speeds. It wakes us up, is annoying and dangerous," said Cheryl Hill of Cypress Reserve.
Since 2012, there have been 90 crashes, two fatal, on Nature’s Way Boulevard, according to Debbie Carter, the sheriff’s office community relations coordinator. Twelve of those crashes happened this year.
One of the most memorable crashes among residents happened in 2010 when Nicole Petracci was killed on Nov. 10 after the 2007 Chevrolet HD 3500 pickup truck in which she was a passenger left the road and slammed into a tree on Nature’s Way Boulevard, north of Havenstone Way. In 2011, law enforcement charged a 20-year-old Brandon man with vehicular manslaughter in the case, saying speed was a factor in the crash.
But it’s not just at night that the engines start revving.
"There’s also a problem during the day as well," said Teresa Capps of River Crossing. "I’m a daily runner and on most occasions feel pretty certain that they are not doing 30 mph. There’s also a large number of walls, trees and property damage that seems to reoccur due to the crashes. I have seen some patrolling of the area but not enough to contribute to a possible solution."
One of the two biggest complaints the Bloomindale Homeowners Association receives each week concerns speeding on the road, according to George May, president of the association.
"We’ve been working on it for months," May said. "We’ve had a proposal into the county to try and solve the problem, but it would be something that would be a tremendous change for Nature’s Way Boulevard."
Proposals have included constructing traffic circles at the intersections of Greenhaven Drive and Greenhollow Lane and taking the small section of road that converts into two-lanes down to one lane and install bike lanes.
"The whole point is how do you slow down the traffic?" May said. "If the road is a one-lane road and the person in front of you is going 30 mph, there’s nowhere to pass. You’ll have to do 30 mph."
Other residents suggested simply taking the "game" for motorists out of the equation.
"They should just change the signs from displaying numeric speed to flash ‘reduce speed’ only when over limit," said Ryan O’Laughlin, who lives in The Greens community.
May said he has noticed there’s been a lot more wrecks on the road since Hillsborough County Public Schools started the new school year. Two elementary schools, Cimino and Alafia, sit on each end of the road.
"Take a walk down the road and you’ll notice the nicks and the bark missing off many of the trees," May said.
Rosemarie Hope, of the Augusta Village/Stratford Trace community, said she called the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office as early as two weeks ago to complain about the speeders. She said she was told there are not enough deputies to patrol the area.
Werremeyer said he’s also spoken to deputies on several occasions about the problem, but received the same answer.
"The cops told me they could sit out there and write tickets 24 hours a day," he said.
Dennice Vogel, who’s lived in the Spring Lake community since 2013, said she also has noticed that the speeding is getting worse.
"Sadly, the vast majority of drivers around Nature’s Way are not responsible drivers and I even get tailgated, honked at or shown the middle finger if I drive the speed limit," Vogel said.
May said he expects the problem to get worse as construction work begins early next year on nearby Bell Shoals Road and build-out into the area continues.
"We’ve got a problem coming. A big one. And, we’ve got to do something about it," he said.
Contact Crystal Owens at [email protected]