COLORADO SPRINGS — With your help over the next year, News5 is looking for solutions and Driving Change. As our roads are below standards, we're demanding answers from local officials. We're also reaching out to you to help identify the trouble spots, dangerous intersections, potholes, crumbling streets, and bad-driving habits. It's all about everything that adds hours to your daily drive and weekend trips. Working together, we can all save time, money and also save lives.
We're kicking off this effort by talking with the Colorado State Patrol, whose mission reads, "to ensure a safe and secure environment for all persons by utilizing the strengths of our members to provide professional law enforcement services that reflect our Core Values of Honor, Duty and Respect."
While the men and women of CSP are working to keep us safe, they also have to worry about their own safety. News5's Investigative Reporter Patrick Nelson recently rode along with Captain J.P. Burt for an inside look at the job. Burt told us what keeps him up at night is the fear of getting a phone call about someone getting hit by a car while standing outside their vehicle or while working a roadside scene.
Since 1967, Colorado has lost nine State Troopers, struck and killed while they were working roadside accidents or assisting in other efforts.
In the I-25 Gap, Trooper Jaimie Jursevics was struck by a drunk driver on I-25 just south of Castle Rock while protecting another Trooper working a crash scene on the night of November 15, 2015. The 911 call for the crash is a chilling reminder of just how real the dangers are. "I'm not sure which trooper this is, but she's down. I need a supervisor. I need medical quick!"
One year and 10 days later, Trooper Cody Donahue was struck by a commercial vehicle on I-25 just south of Tomah Road while assisting with a crash investigation. "Our hearts are broken tonight as is his family's as is the entire members of the Colorado State Patrol," said a CSP spokesman to the media in 2016.
This has been a lasting concern for years. Take a moment to explore the incidents that have claimed Colorado State Patrol troopers lives using this interactive map.
Now, Burt leads the effort to patrol the same stretch of I-25 where our communities have lost so much.
"Trooper Jamie Jursevics and Trooper Cody Donahue both lost their lives and made the ultimate sacrifice on I-25 while serving these communities. And really in honor of them, we want to make this stretch of roadway as safe as we possibly can. Not just for our first responders but for the people who need this roadway to do their business and get to their jobs and take care of their families," Burt said.
But with the I-25 Gap between Monument and Castle Rock now consumed by 20 miles of construction work, that mission has become a significant challenge. News5 recently reported on crash numbers showing Colorado State troopers were forced to work the narrow lanes of the Gap Project to clear hundreds of crashes in the first year of construction.
During our ride through the area, Burt expressed his concerns about safety.
"I worry about all our first responders out here. This is a pretty crowded environment. Even our fire trucks sometimes have difficulty navigating through traffic backups when they are trying to get to a scene. Once we are outside of our cars we're a pretty soft target for a 4,000 pound vehicle," Burt said.
Colorado's Move Over Law requires drivers to yield the right-of-way, move over at least one lane when possible, and slow to a reasonably safe speed when approaching emergency, towing, or maintenance vehicles on the side of the road.
As an effort to remind people of this law, the stretch of I-25 between Tomah Road and Plum Creek Parkway is designated as the "Trooper Donahue and Trooper Jursevics Move Over Safety Awareness Corridor."
In the 2020 General Assembly, there's a proposed bill (HB20-1145) that would require drivers to drop to a more specific speed when passing emergency vehicles: 25 mph if the speed limit is less than 45 mph or at least 20 mph slower if the posted speed limit is above 45 mph. These types of laws are already on the books in other states.
Even though the Move Over Law was introduced in 2005, State Patrol leaders continue to tweet images of smashed up patrol cars on the side of Colorado highways. The unfortunate reality is that some drivers still refuse to give troopers the space to do their jobs safely. Less than a month after the following tweet went out, Corporal Daniel Groves was struck and killed on I-76 during the Bomb Cyclone of 2019.
In less than 24 hours, we have had 3 State Troopers hit while doing their job. 3!! Thankfully all will be okay. Please, drive responsibly and #MoveOver Lives depend on this folks!! pic.twitter.com/kaCWPFv6X7— Colonel Matthew Packard (@ColPackard) February 16, 2019
Burt says it's not just first responders that need to be careful. After working hundreds of crashes along this corridor, he's seen many drivers who decide to exit their vehicles after a breakdown or a crash along the highway.
"When you're standing on the edge of the road with cars going by at 60, you are no longer in a very safe location," Burt said. "So, if you can't stay in your car with your seat belt on for some reason, I would encourage the public to climb over the concrete barrier stand someplace safe where they have some protection and wait for first responders. Their safety keeps me up at night just as much as first responders getting hit."
There's also a state law for that. The Move-It law reads, "When an accident occurs on the traveled portion, median or ramp of a divided highway and each vehicle involved can be safely driven, each driver shall move such driver’s vehicle as soon as practicable off the traveled portion, median or ramp to a frontage road, the nearest suitable cross street or other suitable location." (Colorado Revised Statutes Section 42-4-1603)
Law enforcement prefers you get out of the roadway to avoid causing major traffic delays and raising the chances of another accident occurring as a result.
The guidelines are:
- Check for injuries – if anyone is injured, call 911 immediately
- Determine whether vehicles are driveable
- Determine whether drugs or alcohol are involved
- Move vehicles off the road to the nearest emergency pullout, highway shoulder or off-ramp shoulder
- Call 911 to alert them of the accident and your location – they will send a response team or tell you what to do
- Exchange information including: name, address, phone number, driver ’s license number, make, model, color of vehicle, license plate number, insurance carrier and policy number using the attached cards
- Report the incident as instructed by law enforcement and your insurance provider
For some of us it's a hard habit to break, but one of the biggest problems troopers say they face working incidents along the I-25 Gap is the tendency of drivers to stop watching where they are going because they want to see what the crash scene looks like as they go by.
In 2020, the Colorado State Patrol is dedicated to reducing the number of crashes in the I-25 Gap and continue to meet with construction leaders and other first responders every two weeks to discuss making changes along the corridor to make our commute safer for everyone.