Troopers tackle Highway 82’s crash alley
ASPEN – When you’re driving on the lower half of Highway 82, you’d better cool your jets or risk a brush with the Colorado State Patrol.The 15-mile stretch of the busy highway between Blue Lake subdivision and Glenwood Springs is being targeted for special attention by state troopers because of all the injury accidents recorded there over the past five years.There were 282 crashes that resulted in injuries or deaths in that stretch between 2000 and 2004, according to statistics kept by the state patrol. In comparison, there were 159 injury accidents between Basalt and Aspen during that same period.”We’re trying to impact the problem by altering driver behavior,” said Capt. Barry Bratt, the top trooper in the region that includes Highway 82 from Independence Pass to Glenwood Springs and Interstate 70 from the Mesa County line to the top of Vail Pass.”82 is the place where historically we’ve had most of our accidents,” he said.The highway has an average daily traffic level of 26,000 vehicles. That’s only 2,000 less than the average at Eisenhower Tunnel on I-70, Bratt noted.”I don’t think people really have an idea how busy it is,” he said.He took the helm of this region for the State Patrol two years ago and determined that he wanted to concentrate on reducing accidents in the Garfield County stretch of Highway 82. He believes that stretch is the worst because of speeding, high traffic volume and lots of cross-streets serving multiple businesses.”We’ve really increased our trooper presence there,” said Bratt.The results are apparent in the number of tickets issued by the troopers. In the last half of 2003, troopers wrote 308 tickets for “hazardous violations” in the Garfield County stretch of Highway 82. Those types of tickets include speeding, careless driving, following too closely and other aggressive maneuvering.Over the same stretch of road during the same period in 2004, troopers wrote 1,079 tickets for hazardous violations, according to Bratt.So if you think you are seeing a lot more troopers patrolling that stretch, you’re right. Bratt said drivers usually alter their habits after getting a ticket. It also helps to slow them down and improve driving when they regularly see troopers patrolling specific stretches of road.The number of fatal accidents increased from zero to two in the Garfield County stretch in 2004. Bratt’s goal is to eliminate fatal accidents, and the Colorado State Patrol is aiming for statewide elimination of fatal accidents by 2025. To do that, they are enforcing seat belt requirements.Bratt said a person’s chances of surviving a wreck increase astronomically if they remain in the vehicle and aren’t ejected.The Garfield County stretch of Highway 82 is being specially targeted rather than the Pitkin County stretch because of the data and a strong hunch by the patrol. Bratt said he believes the number of crashes in Pitkin County was artificially high because of road construction. Accidents climb during road construction because of stop-and-go traffic. He said it will take a few years to build good data for that stretch now that the expansion to four lanes through Snowmass Canyon is completed.Vail, Colorado
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