(COLORADO) — Colorado State Patrol (CSP) held a press conference on Friday, Jan. 27 to talk about road safety in response to two CSP and one Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) vehicles being hit by speeding or distracted drivers recently.
CSP said, “As of December 22, 2022, 50 deaths of first responders from struck-by incidents had been reported nationally for 2022.”
Major Darce Weil, Colorado State Patrol Commander, District 1 (Metro Denver), said, “Within the last week we’ve had two serious struck-by incidents that occurred in my district alone.” He spoke about those incidents and the precautions CSP and CDOT took to provide ample warning of a roadside situation. Both were the result of drivers not paying attention and driving distracted.
“While we didn’t have serious injuries on these two crashes, I can’t emphasize enough the dangers that these crashes pose,” Weil said. He added that this issue has become an alarming trend in Colorado and pleaded with drivers to adhere to Colorado’s Slow Down, Move Over law.
Weil said, “So here’s what we’re asking, we need the public to slow down and/or move over. It’s very simple; we will provide early warning for you when you’re out on the roadway to see that we are out there and if you cannot safely move over to another lane and remove yourself from that area, we need you to slow down… If there’s inclement weather, we would ask that you slow down even further.”
According to Weil, lane violations, impairment, and speed are the number one causes of crashes right now in Colorado. The Slow Down, Move Over law has been on the books since 2005 and every state in the country has a law similar to it.
“Seeing the struck-by trend this year already, I am concerned, I’m concerned for my officers’ safety, I’m concerned for the employees of CDOT, I’m concerned for all roadway workers, and most importantly I’m concerned for the public. When we are out there for post-crash care, we are out there for members of the public,” Weil said.
The trooper beseeched the public to stop driving distracted and watch their speed. In inclement weather, people need to be especially careful and pay attention to signs and road rules.
In 2019, there were two troopers who died in traffic incidents. Weil said, “The members that we have lost internally to our department, many of us knew them, many of us were on those scenes, and that’s something that we will live with for the rest of our lives.”
Bob Fifer, Deputy Director of Operations for CDOT, said, “I think the common thing we try to do is try to make the roadway safe as possible, and what we’re finding is we try our best, we do our best, we do the lights, we fill the potholes, we put the cones out, and people are just distracted.”
Fifer talked about how employees fear working on the roads and worry about going home to their families. He said that CDOT tries to provide a safe workspace for its employees, but said distracted drivers threaten that safety.
“We too have lost CDOT employees through people going through our construction zones or swinging too close to the shoulder,” Fifer said. “We really, really need to stress that we are not trying to be an inconvenience on your way home, we are trying to attend to somebody who is in distress on the side of the road.”
Fifer said that incidents from 2021 to 2022 increased by 133%. Tweaking the radio, picking up a phone, or being impaired all play a part in causing tragic incidents. Paying attention on the road could mean the difference between life and death.