Where cars crash in county next door
SUMMIT COUNTY – Statistics on car crashes in Summit County released by Colorado State Patrol reveal that the number of fatalities and injuries are decreasing, but the number of drunk-driving crashes are on the rise.In 2006, Colorado state troopers in Clear Creek and Summit counties reported 687 accidents in the latter county.Of those, troopers attributed nearly half – or 330 – to speeding. Of the 330, 60 crashes occurred on Interstate 70 on the grade just west of the Eisenhower Tunnel. The second most likely reason for accidents was weaving and illegal lane changes, which accounted for 13.4 percent of all accidents. Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs ranked third highest, causing 47 accidents last year. That’s a 60-percent increase from 2005, said Capt. Ron Prater.
Prater said he couldn’t speculate on why the numbers skyrocketed in 2006. “I was surprised,” Prater said. “I think we’re bucking a national trend, we’re going backward.”The highest numbers of accidents in Summit County occurred on I-70 between milepost 209 and 215 – just above the lower truck ramp to the Eisenhower Tunnel. Last year, 134 accidents – but no fatalities – occurred in this 6-mile portion of the interstate, compared with 155 in 2005.The second most accident-prone zone was the 21-mile section of Highway 9 between Hoosier Pass and Frisco. There were 75 accidents there last year, a slight increase from 73 the year before. Twenty-three crashes were speed-related and four were linked to DUIs. Accidents were most likely to occur there on Fridays between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.Accidents on Highway 9 between the north end of Silverthorne and the Grand County line jumped to 49 from 29 in 2005. Of the 49, 20 were speed-related and eight were animal-caused. There were two fatal accidents on the 22-mile segment in 2006, both of which resulted from driver error, and the victim in each case wasn’t wearing the seat belt properly, Prater said.”The problem up there is really a driver issue as opposed to a roadway issue,” he said.Accidents on that stretch of roadway occurred most often on Friday between noon and 3 p.m. and 8 and 11 p.m.
The State Patrol investigated six fatal accidents in 2006 in Summit County, the same as 2005, Prater said.Overall, injury and fatal accidents fell by 2.7 percent from 2005 to 2006, beating the troop’s 2-percent goal, Prater said.Students at the University of Northern Colorado are currently studying crash statistics to draw out trends, and their analysis will help the State Patrol determine how to decrease car accidents in Colorado.Prater said he believes most car crashes could be avoided if people slowed down, wore their seat belts and paid attention. “The vast, vast, vast majority of accidents are no accident,” Prater said. “They’re preventable.”
With Summit County situated along one of the nation’s busiest arteries, sharing the roadways with semi trucks is part of life.The Colorado State Patrol doesn’t specifically tally accidents that involve big rigs. Prater said the state patrol is more likely to deal with truckers who haven’t put chains on the tires in snowstorms. Prater said a law has been proposed that would increase the fine for truckers who don’t chain up. Right now, drivers who don’t abide by the chain law can be fined $100 or $500 if someone’s lack in doing so ends up blocking the roadway.A steady rise in truck traffic over the last five to 10 years has cramped the mountain stretch of Interstate 70 , and sometimes the areas where truckers are supposed to put chains on get crowded, Prater said.During bad weather, it’s not uncommon to see truck drivers pulled off anywhere along the interstate to put on or take off their chains.Prater, citing an incident when a trucker was struck and killed in Georgetown while taking the chains off his truck, urged motorists to slow down and move over if they see a truck driver chaining up on the side of the interstate.
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