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Colorado State Patrol trooper Jason Bandy and Rosemarie Owens with La Plata County Search and Rescue interact with a wildfire evacuee near Durango in June 2018. The Patrol received high marks for communication and respect during on its latest public opinion survey. (Jerry McBride/The Duango herald via AP)

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Traffic safety again topped the list of concerns among Coloradans surveyed by the Colorado State Patrol.

The agency’s 2018 performance survey of 3,200 respondents, released Monday, found that the State Patrol is viewed very favorably on communication, fair policing and trust, but not on traffic enforcement.

Public perception of roadway safety has “declined meaningfully” since the last survey in 2015, with 66 percent of respondents saying “traffic is worse than two years ago.”

Only 51 percent of respondents described Colorado highways as “very safe,” dropping the average safety rating to 6.2, the first dip below 7.1 causing a steep reduction in the average safety rating, which currently stands at 6.2. It is the first time the score has fallen below 7.1 since 2009.

“Ultimately, people respect what we do,” said Trooper Joshua Lewis, agency spokesman. “But they want us to do our job, which is to go out there and make sure everyone traveling through Colorado is doing so as safely as possible.”

Colorado Springs residents also ranked traffic safety as the No. 1 concern in a survey by city police last year, when traffic deaths hit a record 48. That year, traffic fatalities hit a record high with 48 deaths.

The patrol’s survey found aggressive, reckless and distracted driving were particular concerns.seem to be the most worrisome behaviors on the roadway, patrol’s survey said.

“Too many people are texting and talking on their cell phones,” one respondent said. “Too much traffic,” another said.

At least 608 respondents said they called the patrol to report a concern, with 54 percent of those reporting aggressive or drunken driving and being , but those drivers said they were “least satisfied” with how their complaint was handled, giving the patrol low marks for “helpfulness.”

The agency said it’s harder to track results of such complaints and report back to the caller. But a 2017 Gazette investigation found that low staffing sometimes meant those calls weren’t investigated.

At least 29 motorists called patrol, police or the sheriff’s emergency lines Nov. 20 and 21, 2017, to report erratic driver Robert Ours as he screamed along Interstate 25 and other major roadways at speeds up to 140 mph, later killing Ellicott Principal Diane Garduno and himself in a head-on collision.

Stop him before he kills someone, the callers would warn. Hours later, he died after slamming head first into Ellicott school principal Diane Garduno, killing her and himself.

At the time, Patrol spokesman Rob Madden said troopers couldn’t do a lot about aggressive drivers. They move so fast that catching them hinges on “luck and timing,” not procedure and skill, he said, and the patrol sometimes doesn’t have a trooper to send.other times, they just don’t have the staffing to send someone.

So despite the many calls about while the patrol and other agencies were getting reports of Ours’ driving, as he moved throughout the county, no one was assigned to look for him for 12 hours, records obtained by The Gazette showed.

Other survey respondents recommended the patrol better support highway widening projects, such as the I-25 Gap, and more strictly enforce passing over solid white lines, cruising in the left lane without passing, be stricter with traffic enforcement — “no passing over solid white line, no ‘cruising’ in left lane without passing, commercial vehicle safety checks and road rage.

Col. Matthew Packard, the agency’s chief, promised in the report to continue “proactive actions to provide additional safety awareness, efficiently manage traffic through the implementation of traffic incident management, and work with our partners to ensure the highway infrastructure is as safe as possible,” but he did not specify how that would be done. provide specifics about what those actions could look like.

Lewis said the patrol is still working with partner agencies, including the Colorado Department of Transportation, to determine the most effective actions.

The survey was conducted online by OrgVitality, a survey consulting firm.

Contact the writer at 719-636-0362 or find her on Twitter: @njKaitlinDurbin.

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Kaitlin is a public safety reporter with a focus on investigations. She is a proud Ohioan, champion for local libraries, volunteer reading tutor and an expert ice cream connoisseur (mint chocolate chip!). She joined the Gazette in 2016.

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