Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

Gazette Premium Content Report shows the whos, wheres, whys and whens of Colorado Springs crashes

By Andrea Sinclair Updated: May 5, 2014 at 7:57 am

Colorado Springs motorists may want to avoid Interstate 25 at East Woodmen Road from noon to 6 p.m. on Fridays, especially if there are other drivers between the ages of 21 and 25 who may have been drinking or are distracted by their cell phones.

That scenario reflects data from a Colorado Springs police crash study that shows who is most likely to crash their vehicle - and when, where and why that might happen.

Police analyzed crash data within city limits from 2009 to 2013 with the intent of identifying trends and patterns in Colorado Springs, such as the top contributing factors as well as the top 25 crash locations in 2013.

The report shows that vehicle wrecks have risen by nearly 12 percent in the last five years.

The findings will be used to improve traffic safety programs and traffic law enforcement practices in an effort to reduce crashes, said Colorado Springs police Cmdr. Sean Mandel.

"We are aware of the fact that accidents have been increasing over the years, and that's why we asked for the study," Mandel said. "We are constantly evaluating information from the crashes and their locations, figuring out how to deploy our resources."

Most concerning to police was that 2013 had the most fatal wrecks since 2002, with 31 crashes that killed 35 people. Mandel said that could be because of the steady increase of traffic volume in Colorado Springs and questionable driving practices.

"All kinds of traffic accidents have gone up, he said. "A big reason for that could be because of distracted driving, such as people using their cell phones, messing with the radio, or even passengers can be a distraction."

Indeed, for 2013, the top causes were distracted drivers, impairment due to alcohol or drugs and driver inexperience.

"Where the contributing factor is known, driver distraction leads with 724, followed by impairment with 552, and inexperience with 495," the analysis stated.

Driver distraction is one of the main issues that driving schools address with students, along with driver inexperience.

"What driving schools try to do is to give students the types of experiences they need to understand the risks involved in driving and how easy it is to lose control of the car, especially if they're distracted talking on the phone or to another passenger," said Spencer Pace, director of training for MasterDrive, Inc. "Driving in and of itself is multitasking already, but sometimes people approach driving as secondary to whatever else they're doing."

Colorado law dictates that 15-year-olds can receive instructional driving permits if they complete a driver's education course, which involves 30 hours of classroom work and six hours of behind-the-wheel training. At 15-and-a-half, only a driver awareness program is necessary, while no driving school time is required for those 16 and up to get a permit.

To obtain a driver's license under age 18, the instruction permit must have been valid for 12 months, and the driver must have a minimum of 40 hours of daylight driving and 10 hours of night driving.

Although the laws were updated in 2004, the standard has been in place since the 1940s, said Pace, and driving conditions have changed drastically since then.

"There's more vehicles on the roads, speed limits have changed, we drive much closer to each other than we used to," Pace said. "But even with driving education schools, six hours of hands-on training is not enough. Parents really have to be accountable and spend enough time teaching and driving with their teens."

Drivers ages 21 to 25 accounted for the most crashes - 1,559 - last year, and drivers ages 16 to 20 followed closely with 1,190 wrecks, according to the analysis.

Pace said for teen drivers, inexperience is by far the greatest cause for car crashes.

"Teens don't fully understand what's going on with the car; how its weight and speed, how they handle the vehicle, in addition to road conditions, affect the outcome of a collision," Pace said.

Mandel said applying the study's findings will be the next step. For example, knowing that 1,588 crashes happened on Fridays, most of them between noon and 6 p.m., could indicate when patrols should be on alert.

The analysis also revealed that the top five locations for wrecks in 2013 were all along Interstate 25, with the East Woodmen Road intersection taking top place with 148 crashes. I-25 and South Nevada Avenue followed with 93 wrecks, while I-25 and West Cimarron Street was in third place with 87 wrecks.

"There's no projected timeline for when adjustments will be made to the traffic programs," Mandel said. "But based on the study, there could be officer deployments on different days of the week and at strategic locations. There could be many ways to implement the information from the study to try to decrease traffic accidents."

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Crashes 2009-2013

2009

Total: 8,686

Fatal crashes: 20

Fatalities: 22

Fatal crashes involving drugs or alcohol: 10

Injured: 754

2010

Total: 8,682

Fatal crashes: 21

Fatalities: 22

Fatal, involving drugs or alcohol: 8

Injured: 762

2011

Total: 8,646

Fatal crashes: 23

Fatalities: 24

Fatal, drugs or alcohol: 9

Injured: 732

2012

Total: 8,787

Fatal crashes: 29

Fatalities: 32

Fatal, drugs or alcohol: 14

Injured: 855

2013

Total: 9,716

Fatal crashes: 31

Fatalities: 35

Fatal, drugs or alcohol: 14

Injured: 733

Source: Colorado Springs Police Department

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Contributing Factors

No apparent factor: 5545

Other factor: 1166

Distracted driving: 724

DUI, DWAI, DUID: 552

Driver inexperience: 495

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TOP 10 Crash Locations (2013(

- I-25 and East Woodmen Road - 148

- I-25 and South Nevada Avenue - 93

- I-25 and West Cimarron Street - 87

- I-25 and West Garden of the Gods Road - 77

- I-25 and West Fillmore Street - 64

- Barnes Road and North Powers Boulevard - 54

- South 8th Street and West Cimarron Street - 54

- Airport Road and South Academy Boulevard - 52

- I-25 and West Bijou Street - 50

- East Platte Avenue and North Academy Boulevard - 42

Source: Colorado Springs Police Department

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