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Give the house a brake

The brakes squeal, and Mary Gill's heart stops. She's waiting to hear the crunch of a car slamming into her garage. It has happened three times since she bought her house in 1989.

Mrs. Gill lives across from the intersection of Philippe Parkway and Enterprise Road, next to Philippe Park. When drivers fail to see the stop sign at Enterprise Road, her garage becomes their final destination. In two years, she has replaced two aluminum garage doors, a car and a motorcycle.

The county's Traffic Engineering Division has posted warning signs along Enterprise, but Mrs. Gill said that hasn't helped much.

"When I hear brakes, I tense up," she said. "Every time you hear a screech, you're afraid to look out the window."

Mrs. Gill is so worried that she won't allow her cats to play in the garage anymore. She said she will fear for her son Eric's safety when he starts walking.

Mrs. Gill, 27, and her husband, Jay, 26, bought the house in March 1989. She thought it would be a good starter home, and the couple spent about $15,000 fixing it up, she said.

"I thought the house was so cute," she said. "I said to my husband, "Don't worry, the cars won't bother us.' "

That July, a driver under the influence of alcohol hit the left side of the garage door, damaging Gill's Trans Am and his motorcycle, she said. The Gills' insurance company spent $10,000 repairing the garage, motorcycle and other items, Mrs. Gill said.

In December 1989, a woman crashed into the right wall of the Gills' garage. The driver said she was racing against someone and couldn't stop, Mrs. Gill said. Repairing the garage wall cost about $300.

In March 1990, the county posted two warning signs along Enterprise Road, just before the stop sign. A sign with arrows pointing north and south was placed next to the Gills' garage.

But the signs haven't helped. Last month, a woman's brakes gave out on a rainy night, and she smashed into the garage door, Mrs. Gill said.

"I thought it was thunder," she said. "I just happened to look in the garage, and there was a car." The Gills collected $1,000 from their insurance company to replace the door.

Mrs. Gill said several near-misses have left skid marks on her driveway. Rumble strips _ raised strips on the street designed to warn drivers to slow down _ along Enterprise would improve her garage's chances of avoiding another crash, she said.

A county traffic official disagreed.

"Generally, we discourage rumble strips," said Pete Turgeon, chief of traffic operations for the county's traffic engineering division. "They create such a loud rumbling noise through the night.If people can't read signs, what are you going to do? There's a certain group of people that no matter what you put out there, they're going to violate it."

But some solution must be found, Mrs. Gill said, because she and her husband want to sell the house.

"Our next house is going to be in a neighborhood with no traffic," she said.

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