'One fatality is too many'

Proactive approach fuels across-the-board drops for state patrol

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Fatal and injury accidents -- two categories troopers say the Colorado State Patrol pays the most attention to -- decreased sharply last year in district 4B, an area that includes Moffat County.

Reductions in those areas mirrored across-the-board decreases for the State Patrol in 2006, according to district 4B's year-end statistics.

"Nobody's going to sit back and just say 'yep, there's a problem,'" State Patrol Capt. Brett Williams said. "We're going to take a proactive approach. ... To us, one fatality is too many."

District 4B covers Moffat, Routt, Rio Blanco, Grand and Jackson counties. Fourteen to 17 troopers patrol 838 miles of state highways and 4,741 miles of county roads within the five-county jurisdiction.

District 4B accounts for the second-largest jurisdiction in Colorado.

According to the report, fatal accidents decreased from 18 in 2005 to 13 last year, for a 28 percent reduction, or more than double the 12 percent statewide average. Injury accidents decreased from 357 in 2005 to 279 in 2006, a 22 percent decrease.

Accidents caused by motorists driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs also decreased last year, dropping from 45 in 2005 to 35 in 2006 for a 22 percent reduction.

One category increased for the State Patrol in 2006 -- auto theft recoveries. Troopers recovered six stolen vehicles in 2005 and 19 last year for a 217 percent increase.

Williams said a tougher stance on traffic enforcement and built-in accountability measures have spurred the decreases. Chief Mark Trostel instilled the new proactive philosophy at state patrol divisions across the state, Williams said.

"I think that's been big, the philosophy of our new chief for the whole organization," Williams said. He added, "If we're at work, we're on the roads."

Trostel, Williams said, has targeted a goal of completely eliminating fatal and injury accidents. The chief wants accidents reduced by 5 percent each year until 2025.

"Our chief looks at that as an attainable goal," Williams said.

District 4B took on additional challenges in stemming accidents in 2006.

The Colorado 13 Project was an effort to reduce animal-caused accidents on a stretch of Highway 13 from mile marker 17 to 128, which covers all of Moffat and Rio Blanco counties. In May 2005, the state patrol reduced the nighttime speed limit from 65 to 55 miles per hour.

The side benefit to the reduced nighttime speed limit and additional trooper presence in the area was a wide-spread decrease for the 111-mile section.

There were about 50 less total accidents in the area -- including injury accidents and driving under the influence-caused accidents -- or a 20 percent reduction, according to statistics.

"Which is more paramount to the animal-caused crashes," Williams said.

Joshua Roberts can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 210, or jroberts@craigdailypress.com.

2005 2006 Difference

Fatal accidents 18 13 28 percent reduction

Injury accidents 357 279 22 percent reduction

DUI fatal/injury 45 35 22 percent reduction

Auto theft recoveries 6 19 217 percent increase

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