CDOT safety campaign

Colorado Department of Transportation’s campaign “Moving Towards Zero Deaths”

The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) held a Road Health Summit last week to bring together experts, including more than 200 “traffic safety partners,” to discuss solutions to traffic safety issues affecting the state. The summit was held June 8-10 at Keystone Resort and Convention Center.

Carol Gould, CDOT’s highway safety manager, said:

Over 90 percent of crashes are due to drivers making bad choices — but these behaviors can be changed through more education, awareness and enforcement of laws. This summit allows us to take a step back and look at the big picture — and dig deep into best practices, tactics, strategies and approaches as outlined in CDOT’s Strategic Highway Safety Plan.

Room for Improvement

Darrel Lingk, director of CDOT’s Office of Transportation Safety, said that when it comes to road safety, there is a lot of room for improvement in the state, from encouraging more people to wear seat belts, to reducing the amount of distracted driving (thereby reducing the number of traffic accidents).

Wednesday’s welcoming remarks featured comments from Gould; Lingk; Gina Espinosa-Saucedo, regional administrator at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration; Randy Jensen, Federal Highway Administration program delivery team leader; and Lt. Colonel Kevin Eldridge of the Colorado State Patrol.

In the opening remarks, CDOT’s Deputy Executive Director Mike Lewis and Lindsey Myers, injury and prevention unit manager of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, discussed “How to Improve Road Health From a Public Health Perspective.”

Road Safety Efforts

Wednesday’s program also included a session on current safety efforts, featuring Alisa Babler, CDOT traffic and safety engineer, speaking about Colorado’s Strategic Highway Safety Plan (SHSP); Pam Beer, senior associate, Cambridge Systematics, on the SHSP Plan of Action; Dahir Egal, highway safety engineer with the FHWA Colorado Division Office, on FHWA National Program Review of State Strategic Highway Safety Plans; and Sam Cole, manager of CDOT’s Traffic Safety Communications, on the Year of Seat Belt Rollout.

Breakout sessions included State Traffic Records Coordinating Committee Data Session: Evaluating Traffic Safety Performance; a session on “Aging Road User — Traveling over 65: Challenges Ahead; one on Impaired Driving, The History, Neuro-Science and Toxicology of Marijuana; a session led by teenagers on “Young Driver — How to Engage Teens by Teens; a session called New and Innovative Safety Initiatives for Law Enforcement; and one on Rural and Urban Infrastructure.

More breakout sessions included State Traffics Records Coordinating Committee Data Session: Do We Really Know Who is Impaired?; Motorcycle Safety Initiatives and Introduction to MSF; Occupant Protection — Seat Belt Surveys, Statewide CPS Program, Injury Data Mapping and Occupant Protection Communication Strategies; Young Driver — Boomers, Xers and Millennials: How New Research on Generations Can Inform the Future of Prevention; New and Innovative Traffic Safety Initiatives for Law Enforcement (which was a repeat of an earlier breakout session, to give more people a chance to attend); and Rural and Urban Infrastructure. And there were many more experts and discussions on Thursday.

Cyclists, Pedestrians on Agenda?

Despite a summit agenda that seemed to have covered all the bases for road safety, at least one writer thought there were some problems with the summit. David Sachs, writing for StreetsBlog Denver, quotes WalkDenver Policy Director Jill Locantore as saying she was disappointed that the summit was mostly focused on cars, drivers, and “non-urban” situations, with little mention of pedestrians and cyclists:

Bicyclists and pedestrians seem to be viewed as a problem or an afterthought, as opposed to equal users of the transportation system and more vulnerable users of the system, who therefore deserve probably some special consideration.’

Sachs also quotes Peter Kozinski, a CDOT staff member with the responsibility of developing the department’s automated vehicle program, who said the biggest threat to pedestrian safety is walking while using a cell phone:

All of our high-speed urban streets designed to move cars at deadly speeds? To CDOT, they apparently don’t hold a candle to people on foot with their devices out.

However, Locantore applauded that more than one speaker at the summit approved of zero traffic deaths as the right goal. She was disappointed that some local police department officers commented that zero traffic deaths is an unrealistic goal that sets things up for failure.