EL PASO COUNTY —
Deadly auto accidents are too common in El Paso County. "[In 2018] El Paso County had the unwelcome distinction of being the most deadly traffic county in the State of Colorado," said El Paso County Sheriff’s Office, Traffic Enforcement Supervisor, Sergeant Cliff Porter. The unwanted ranking prompted programs identifying the contributing factors to drive change with education and enforcement.
Excessive speed on county roads is among the leading reasons for the problem.
“It's 45 and he's doing 70. So, it's frustrating," said El Paso County resident Lisa Brandt. She tells the story of a man in a truck driving near her home at 20 miles an hour over the posted limit. "I pulled up to him and I said you know that's super dangerous what you're doing.” As Brandt is telling her story outside the Black Forest Community Center others coming out of the building repeatedly comment that they see people driving way too fast on roads in the area.
El Paso County Sheriff's Office deputies have stepped up enforcement. Only traffic enforcement leaders say that is a tool, not the whole solution. Instead, drivers need to learn about the issue and be part of change.
"Speed limits aren't designed to be frustrating to you on a soccer day, or a school day, or a workday,” Porter said, “They're designed to make sure everybody can get there as safely as they possibly can."
Porter says drivers need to think of speed in terms of how it impacts reaction time and stopping distance. Stopping distance increases exponentially the faster you go. That means doubling your speed, more than doubles your stopping distance.
“Because of your speed, you were two seconds slower to respond and that two seconds caused a traffic accident," Porter says seconds can be the difference between a near miss or tragedy on the road.
El Paso County uses historical data along with real-time data gathering devices along roads to identify traffic issues and problem areas. The Traffic Enforcement Unit uses the data for targeted education and enforcement strategies. The beefed-up program started mid-2019.
"We have seen a 20% reduction in 2019 in fatal crashes," Porter said. The plan is to keep the downward trend moving.