VanMeveren Law Group March 2018

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2017 was an off year for motorists in Fort Collins. We saw a notable spike in motor vehicle collisions, and experts are baffled as to why. Fourteen people died in auto accidents last year, which represents the most dramatic increase in over a decade. If we look at the data compiled by local law enforcement agencies, the Larimer County coroner, and the city’s traffic operations, we can get a closer look at those fatalities. Seven drivers and passengers, four motorcyclists, and three pedestrians were killed in Fort Collins in 2017. By contrast, Fort Collins had eight fatal crashes in 2016 and four in 2015. Engineers are looking at this data and data from all the nonfatal accidents to determine what might be causing the spike. They use the data to prioritize roadway safety projects. For instance, the intersection of N. Giddings Road and Richard’s Lake did not have a stop sign. This is where Kelly Cortez and her son, Joshua, were killed in a crash last November. In response, city and county traffic engineers added large stops signs to that intersection. They also installed thermoplastic stop bars for traffic on Richard’s Lake. As an additional precaution, they installed advance-warning signs and highlighted the upcoming intersection to warn approaching traffic. Joe Olson, head of traffic operation in Fort Collins, cites an increase in the area’s population as part of the reason behind the 22 percent increase in traffic accidents since 2012. The population of the city has risen more than 32 percent since 2000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The number continues to rise each year. The last documented population figure was 164,207 as of July 1, 2016.

So, what can you do to stay safe? Olson says, “These crashes are completely preventable with a bit of acumen,” and there is a lot of truth in that. Consider the following: Olson states that most crashes are car-against-car. The most prevalent of these are rear-end collisions. Cellphones and driving while intoxicated are some of the most common forms of inattentive or careless driving that lead to rear-end crashes. The next most common form of collision is motorists taking a left turn on a yellow light. Crash reports indicate that most people assume oncoming traffic will stop for the yellow light. Then, they proceed through. This is an incredibly unsafe assumption and, as a result, the situation turns into a high-speed accident.

Finally, car vs. bicycle collisions account for another 23 percent of crashes. Again, awareness is a key factor in those accidents, as well. Olson states that the city has worked to make both an infrastructure that accommodates roadway users and a public awareness campaign to make drivers more attentive to cyclists. Will the trend continue in 2018? That has yet to be seen, but it’s important to remain attentive and cautious when you head out on the road whether you are in a car, on a motorcycle, on a bicycle, or on foot.

–Bryan VanMeveren

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