Colorado officials plan on making a statewide listening tour this summer to find ways to reduce traffic deaths of pedestrians and cyclists, as the rates of these fatalities have gone up since 2002, as Joey Bunch reports in The Denver Post.
The listening tour, comprised of 20 members of the Colorado House and Senate transportation committees, will begin on July 16 at the Capitol in Denver, and will move to northern Colorado from July 23 to July 25. It will go to southern Colorado in August, and end in western Colorado in September, Bunch writes.
Colorado’s total traffic deaths have tumbled 44 percent since 2002, but deaths of pedestrians are up 9.8 percent and cyclist deaths are up 44 percent.
More recently, auto-pedestrian collisions in Denver for the first four months of this year have risen almost 35 percent since the same period in 2010, and hit-and-run cases in the city this year are up 55 percent over each of the previous four years.
Transportation experts said that simplifying collision data and making it more available can make it easier for officials to predict where auto accidents might happen and determine the causes, writes Associated Press in an article appearing on KREXTV.com. But such data-sharing systems can cost millions of dollars, AP writes, and coordinating the effort is not always easy.
Unfortunately, the funds are not available to make the changes needed. Bunch quotes Democratic state Sen. Rollie Heath of Boulder as saying, “We’re not adequately funding basic repairs on some of our roads.” Heath added that the state has a lot of needs for the funds it does have.
Bunch writes that there are federal grants for some of the costs. For example, Colorado gets about $500,000 in federal grants annually for record-keeping, and that could be used for an all-digital system, like the ones Minnesota and 13 other states already use.
In fact, a study in June 2010 by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that those states that switched to electronic records submissions had saved money, Bunch points out. They did that by charging a fee for reports and enlisting the aid of universities and private contractors to devise cost-cutting measures.
Bunch quotes Kathleen Haney, research, evaluation, and traffic records manager for the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, who said the investment in more timely records and a streamlined process has paid off in her state. And she added:
It’s hard to plan for the future when you’re using data from too far in the past… It’s hard to address a problem that’s going on right now with old data.
CDOT [The Colorado Department of Transportation] had fallen several years behind in processing crash data because of a records process that moves records back and forth between law enforcement, the Colorado Department of Revenue, regional planning agencies and CDOT — a chain of record management that remains.
CDOT traffic engineer Charles Meyer told The Denver Post that between 2009 and 2011, CDOT hired extra help to bring its crash records up to date. As a result, now a new crash will appear in the state database four to six months after it happens. Bunch reports that Colorado has more than 90,000 crashes per year — nearly 250 a day — and that includes more than 40,000 annually in Denver. Meyer said with more funds, he would hire more records staff and move all state law enforcement agencies to an electronic records system.
However, that might not be the answer to the problem, according to Steve Cook, a Denver Regional Council of Governments planning manager. He told The Denver Post that although it is important for data to be available as accidents happen, improving the data system alone does not address the leading cause of crashes, namely drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists who are not paying attention.
Image by mike (mlcastle).