CRASH
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A five-car collision on Interstate 25 just south of Rockrimmon Boulevard left four injured when a southbound semi crossed into northbound lanes Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2017. One injury was critical but none appeared life threatening. Photo by James Wooldridge, The Gazette

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Through November, Colorado Springs already had broken its record for fatal crashes.

And all crashes - fender-benders or serious-injury wrecks - have been increasing in recent years.

That could be because of roads crowded by an ever-growing population, officials say.

By mid-November, 36 people had died in crashes across the city, surpassing the record of 35 set in 2013.  

On Saturday a driver identified by Colorado College as one of its Campus Safety officers died in a crash near Monument Valley Park, raising the city's total for the year to 38.

"We're saddened to have broken the record," said police Lt. Howard Black.

Last year's 34 deaths came close to the all-time high.

The city's traffic volume increases each year, so the number of accidents can be expected to increase too, city Traffic Engineer Kathleen Krager said.

Crashes totaled 8,014 in 2013, 8,532 in 2014, 8,867 in 2015, 9,132 in 2016 and 9,325 through October this year, according to data provided by Black.

Local vehicle registrations rose from 324,570 in 2011 to 371,972 in 2016, Black noted.

"Obviously, growth has an impact," he said. "I think we all see an increase in traffic just based on population."

Every year, police list the 25 most crash-prone intersections.

Reconstruction of the crossing at Interstate 25 and West Cimarron Street put that intersection on top of the list in 2016, with 158 crashes.

The near-completion of the $115 million interchange, the second-largest transportation project in the city's history, was celebrated in late October. The project had started in March 2016.

"We did have an increased number of minor accidents through that construction," Krager said. The project's many phases led to lane changes that confused people who didn't pay attention, she said.

The 2016 list's worst eight intersections were along Interstate 25, data show. Extra officers have been patrolling those areas, a police news release says.

"What that top 25 crash locations really tells me is where my highest traffic volumes are, because the crashes have not been weighted based on the amount of traffic that is at that location," Krager said. "Really all that indicates is that crashes are very much related to volume of traffic, and those, when you look through them, are obviously the busiest intersections."

While major intersections have numerous crashes, most are minor, she said. Fatal or serious-injury crashes are more likely to happen on less-trafficked roads, where a driver might feel comfortable speeding.

Some crashes prompt the city to make changes, Krager said. Last year, a traffic death and several injury crashes at 31st Street and U.S. 24 drew attention to a flaw in construction of the intersection that made T-bone crashes more likely.

City engineers stopped allowing left turns on a permissive signal - forcing drivers to turn left on a green arrow only. But that's increased delays, so the Colorado Department of Transportation will work on the intersection.

But traffic engineers can only do so much.

"A fatal accident that involves a DUI and high speed and texting all at the same time is not something that traffic engineering on its own can correct," Krager said. "Unfortunately, the vast majority of traffic accidents do not involve a traffic engineering problem that we can try to correct - they involve human error."

Drivers used to average 5 mph over the speed limit, but now studies show speeds 10 mph over the limit, whether on arterial or residential streets, she said.

"That increase in people speeding is truly a problem and can be directly related to accidents as well."

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Contact Ellie Mulder: 636-0198

Twitter: @lemarie

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Ellie is a general assignment reporter. She's a proud Midwesterner, stationery hoarder and Earl Grey tea enthusiast. After interning at The Gazette in 2015, she joined the newspaper's staff in 2016.

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