Stepping on highway risky business, police say |

Stepping on highway risky business, police say

Veronica Whitney
Preston Utley/Vail Daily Traffic sits on I-70 eastbound near mile marker 166 in Avon. A fatal accident caused the closeing of I-70 eastbound from Edwards exit to Avon.

AVON – When James Tolve, stepped out of his car three weeks ago on the interstate, he became a pedestrian on the highway and therefore, put himself and others in danger, police said. But friends of Tolve, 50, of Morrison, who died after a car hit him when he exited his parked sports utility vehicle on Feb. 20, said he probably stepped out of his car to help someone.”That’s’ what he did. He never passed an accident or somebody who needed help,” said Dena Baldwin, a friend of Tolve’s from Littleton. “This is a man who was in Florida in September during the hurricanes and risked his life to save a dog.”Although police still don’t know why Tolve got out of his car, Avon Police Chief Jeff Layman said he might have stopped out to help someone who had spun out of control in front of him. Police are still investigating the accident.

“But we don’t know. We don’t have any witnesses,” Layman said. “(Tolve) was standing somewhere adjacent to the car that had span out of control. It’s certainly a possibility he had stopped to help.”But stepping out of a car along a busy highway, even to help others, is risky and could pose a danger to other drivers, Colorado State Trooper Eric Wynn said.”You don’t want to become a hazard,” Wynn said. “You have to be aware of your surroundings. If there’s a high volume of traffic, you want to stay in the car. “You don’t want to become a victim yourself,” he added. “Anytime you’re on a major highway and you’re out of your vehicle you increase your risk of being hit.” Layman agreed.”Generally, it’s always best to stay in the car,” Layman said. “I’m always scared to death when I see people standing on the side of the road in an accident situation. We always try to get them back in their cars.”If you see somebody who is stranded in the middle of the road, get on the cell phone and call 911,” Layman added. “Don’t try to do it yourself.”

When to stay putIn most situations people are safer in their cars than they are on the side of the road, but there aren’t rules to follow, Layman said. “It depends on the situation you find yourself in,” he said. “If you do make a choice of getting out of the car, watch traffic that’s coming towards you, step on the other side of the guardrail and make sure you’re not stepping over a bridge rail.” There could be a risk in staying in a small car in the middle of the road where it can get hit by a big truck or a sports utility vehicle, Layman said.”In that case, it’s safer to be away from the vehicle, but only if you can get out safely,” Layman said. “But if you can get the car to the right side of the road, you should be OK in the car. People need to be safe and aware of their surroundings.”It is risky,” Wynn added, “when you’re on a highway where 75 mph is the speed limit.”

Jamie Weisbrod, who works in traffic safety education with the American Automobile Association, recommends drivers get out of the car if it’s in the middle of traffic. “If the car is on the side of the road, stay there until help arrives,” Weisbrod said. “If you have to get out, my recommendation is to get out of the car from the passenger’s side because you’re not getting out on the roadside. Also make sure that you’re watching for other cars.”Working on Interstate 70 is the most dangerous responsibility his police officers have, Layman said. “People drive too fast and sometimes the weather is bad,” he said.Staff Writer Veronica Whitney can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 454, or Vail, Colorado

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