Local, state traffic fatalities decreasing

Following a statewide trend, traffic fatalities in the five-county area have decreased by 27 percent in 2006, according to the Colorado State Patrol division for this district.

According to the state patrol's latest information, eleven people died from fatal crashes in 2006 in district 4B, an area that covers Moffat, Routt, Rio Blanco, Grand and Jackson counties. That's a decrease of five fatalities from the 15 deaths in 2005.

Those numbers are subject to change as the state patrol puts the finishing touches on its year-end numbers. Still, CSP Capt. Brett Williams of the Craig office, said a reduction in traffic fatalities is happening statewide.

"It's down across the board," Williams said. "A lot of it has to do with the patrol changing it's thinking. ... We've been much more aggressive enforcing laws against aggressive drivers. (The state patrol) has said, 'We've got a problem and we're going to deal with it.'"

Although the decrease mirrors a statewide decline, the 27 percent reduction is more than double the statewide average. The Colorado Department of Transportation reports that traffic fatalities have decreased by about 12 percent from 2005 to 2006.

Preliminary reports indicate that 532 people died in traffic crashes in 2006 compared to 606 deaths in 2005 and 667 in 2004.

"Traffic deaths have not been this low in the state since 1992 so this is very good news for Colorado," said Pam Hutton, CDOT's chief engineer, in a news release. "We have seen decreases in eight months of this and December marks another great reduction in deaths."

CDOT contends that many traffic injuries and fatalities can be avoided by wearing seatbelts.

"All Coloradans are urged to buckle up on every trip," Hutton said. "Drivers should make sure that child passengers are properly restrained in child safety seats, booster seats and seat belts appropriate for their age and size. And as always, we should all ensure that our family members and friends have a sober driver behind the wheel so we continue this trend of reducing fatalities on Colorado highways."

The state patrol's district 4B is responsible for enforcing traffic laws on more than 5,000 miles of county roads and state highways. State highways account for about 838 miles of the five-county jurisdiction and county roads account for about 4,741 miles.

Williams said the CSP has 14 troopers to monitor the 5,579-mile jurisdiction, one of the largest in the state.

"It's a pretty daunting task," he said. "We have to get creative in our efforts. When we're at work, we're out on the road looking for problems."

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