Slow-driving troopers hope to save lives on Vail Pass
EAGLE COUNTY Conni Osborne didnt mind that she was stuck in a line of cars as she and others drove behind a Colorado state trooper down Vail Pass during a snowstorm.People drive too fast during poor weather, she said. So having a trooper drive slowly in front of them down sometimes icy, snow-packed Interstate 70 seems like a good idea, she said. Thats exactly what troopers have started doing in Eagle County this year, said Capt. Richard Duran of the Colorado State Patrol. During poor weather, troopers drive 30 to 45 miles per hour with their emergency lights on and in the middle of the interstate so that drivers cant pass, Duran said. If a driver tries to pass a trooper in that situation, they will be ticketed. The strategy gets drivers to slow down, preventing accidents and saving lives, Duran said.
Troopers have used the strategy five to 10 times this year on westbound Vail Pass and between Eagle and Edwards and they may do it again next year, Duran said. The strategy is necessary because of the increase in accidents in Eagle County this winter compared with last winter, Duran said. There were 690 accidents in January and February compared with 451 during the same time last year, he said. And authorities have closed Vail Pass 18 times because of accidents and poor weather since November. Vail Pass was closed three times during the same period last winter.The combination of heavy snowfall this year, people driving too fast and truckers refusing to follow the chain law have caused most of the closures. Duran didnt have statistics on whether the strategy has decreased accidents, but authorities who have used the strategy on Monument Hill between Colorado Springs and Castle Rock have seen a decrease, he said.
The strategy seems dangerous and might confuse tourists, said Kathy Fagan, who lives in Eagle-Vail. I respect what the police want to do, but people want to pick one lane or the other, Fagan said. Kelly Casber, who lives in Eagle-Vail, said people might go too fast around a corner to find traffic going much slower. Thats obviously a dangerous situation, she said. Duran said troopers drive a reasonable speed depending on the conditions to prevent accidents like that. The whole idea is preventing (accidents), not causing them, he said. Even though Eagle-Vail resident Jason Thrash said he has perfect vision, sometimes he cant see well when its snowing hard on Vail Pass. So he likes the idea of following someone.I also think its a good idea for all the bad drivers out there who think they can go 80 in the middle of a blizzard, Thrash said. Staff Writer Steve Lynn can be reached at 748-2931 or email@example.com.