Editor’s note: This is part two of a series focusing on this year’s record-breaking pace of traffic deaths in Colorado Springs and efforts underway to reverse that trend. The series is being produced in conjunction with Gazette news partner KKTV.
As in most cities, jaywalking is a common sight in Colorado Springs. Even the most law-abiding citizens do it from time to time.
But Colorado Springs police are warning that jaywalking also is one of the most frequent causes of fatal crashes in the city — along with aggressive driving, impaired driving and street racing. Of the 35 fatalities reported to police through Wednesday, seven of them have involved pedestrians. In previous years, there have been as many as 11.
As this year’s fatality total inches closer to last year’s record 39 deaths, police are urging drivers to pay better attention on the roadway and urging pedestrians — whether in a crosswalk or not — to look out for themselves.
“Just because you have a walk signal doesn’t mean just go straight out in the street,” police Lt. John Koch said. “Look at what’s going on. Look at your surroundings, look for vehicles turning. Understand that it can be hard for vehicles to see you with street signs in the way and other vehicles passing.”
For drivers, Koch said, “Don’t just look for a car coming … be aware of the fact there might be a pedestrian about to cross the street or in the crosswalk.”
In the past six years, 50 pedestrians have died on Colorado Springs roadways. The Gazette mapped the locations of those crashes and found some areas appear more deadly than others.
Click the Google icon to the left of the map title to view pedestrian deaths by year, or click on the pins in the map for details about each crash.
Multiple crashes have been reported along Nevada Avenue, especially south of downtown near I-25, and on Academy Boulevard, where nine of the crashes have occurred between Austin Bluffs and Milton E. Proby.
Dirk Cordtz, 62, was one of the pedestrians killed on South Nevada Avenue this year. Police didn’t specify if Cordtz was in a crosswalk, but said he was walking east across the avenue toward Las Vegas Street when he was struck and pinned beneath an SUV that had been turning onto Nevada.
His stepdaughter, Carrie Lance, said she wonders what the driver was doing that prevented them from seeing Cordtz on that sunny, January afternoon.
“How do you not see a 6-foot-3 man crossing the street?” Lance asked.
An unnamed witness interviewed by Gazette news partner KKTV in January after a crash at Circle Drive and Galley Road recalled the “horrific sound” the vehicle made as it slammed into 68-year-old Joseph Bruno, killing him.
“It basically sounded like you slamming two metal things together,” the witness said.
“I looked up, and I just see a shoe flying in the air.”
Colorado Department of Transportation statistics show pedestrian deaths have been on the rise since 2015, when 62 fatalities were reported. Last year, the toll was up to 93.
Contributing to the increase could be the willingness of more walkers to cross in unsafe areas or at unsafe times. KKTV drove around the city for an hour Wednesday night and reported seeing more than a dozen people jaywalking.
One driver, Tracy Coons, told KKTV it’s something she sees all the time, particularly on Nevada Avenue.
“They just jump right in front of our vehicle when we’re picking up the kids from school, I’d say on a daily basis,” Coons said.
A pedestrian, who gave only his first name — Fred — told KKTV it’s hard not to jaywalk when crossing signals make walkers “wait so long even when you push the button.” But he said he understood the danger of not waiting.
“There might not be traffic when they’re walking, but by the time you get to the middle of the street, all the sudden — wow, both sides and you’re standing there,” Fred said.
“That happened to me once. My timing was off, but yeah they don’t slow down.”
Contact the writer at 719-636-0362 or find her on Twitter: @njKaitlinDurbin.