Rare street-name change ahead in Champaign
CHAMPAIGN — One of the worst moments of anyone's life is having to call an ambulance for a loved one, and it's made that much worse when the ambulance goes to the wrong place because your street has a confusing name.
That's exactly what happened to the Young family last September, when their teenage daughter collapsed during an epileptic seizure. The mix-up has prompted the city council to take another look at how it names streets.
Beth Young's 16-year-old daughter was unconscious and unresponsive. The Youngs live on Sawgrass Lane in the Cherry Hills subdivision. The ambulance went five miles across town to the Sawgrass subdivision. It would be about 20 minutes before anyone showed up.
"The ambulance driver just heard Sawgrass and just started driving to Sawgrass subdivision," Young said.
Young said she doesn't blame anyone for the cross-up — the emergency dispatcher did her job, and she has "a lot of respect" for the ambulance driver who corrected his mistake and called on the fire department to respond in his place.
"It was a human error," Young said. "They're going on adrenaline."
It was the most serious problem they've had, but not the first. Sandwich and pizza delivery drivers get confused. Young missed her delivery of new countertops just after Christmas because the driver went across town.
"If your luggage gets lost, it goes to Sawgrass subdivision," Young said.
Now the residents on Sawgrass Lane and the city are trying to remedy the problem. After 14 of the 15 households on the street and cul-de-sac signed a petition, city council members last week said they want to change the name of Sawgrass Lane to Crimson Lane.
Krista Vance has had problems, too — once when she was getting a ride home from Twin City Honda and the driver started the wrong way. And when she hears the Youngs' story, she worries about her three girls.
"I don't want somebody going somewhere else when you need prompt response," Vance said.
It's a pretty big undertaking to change a street name. All 15 addresses on Sawgrass Lane will now change. The U.S. Postal Service needs to make adjustments — it will continue to deliver mail addressed to Sawgrass Lane for one year after the request.
The residents will need to change their driver's licenses and identification cards, bank accounts, tax documents and anything else with their address on it. The city will need to notify the county's emergency dispatch center and other service providers, as well as those who run GPS and navigation services.
Worth it, Young said.
"The lives of residents are more important than the hassle," she said.
Vance doesn't worry about the hassle, either.
"Absolutely not," she said. "When people move to a new home, you change your street name, you change everything. You send out notices to your friends and everything. I would have no problem doing that to actually save people's lives."
The change could be finalized during a city council meeting next month.
Public Works Director Dennis Schmidt said confusion about street names is not unheard of.
"Whenever we hear about confusion in the public works department in respect to a street name, that gets our attention," Schmidt said. "It becomes a priority to us when it results in emergency response going awry, and that's exactly what happened here."
There has only been one street name change in recent memory, said public works spokesman Kris Koester. About five years ago, Valleybrook South Drive was changed to Wendover Place to avoid confusion with Valley Brook Drive.
Rules on changing street names
The city has had a street naming policy in place for about 10 years:
— Street names cannot include directional indicators (for example Northwood or Southmoor).
— Names may not conflict with an existing street name in Champaign County.
— There may be no compound or two-word street names (for example Crestridge or Blue Spruce).
— Street names are limited to 15 characters, and they must be easy to spell and pronounce.
There are some names that defy those rules but predate the policy. Koester said public works officials review those in cases where problems come up.
The city plans also to add a new rule to its policy: Street names may not conflict with the name of another subdivision.