Many Coloradans do not feel safe on state highways, survey shows
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — A 2018 survey published Monday by Colorado State Patrol revealed an all-time low in the public’s opinion on the safety of driving on the state’s roads.
More than 3,200 people responded to the survey, conducted through a third party, which measures public perception of State Patrol troopers as well as Colorado driving conditions.
Only 51 percent of people feel safe on the state’s highways, while 29 percent reported feeling very unsafe driving on the roads.
This comes after Colorado voters struck down two measures in the 2018 election that would have allocated billions of dollars to improve an increasingly congested and deteriorating transportation system.
Kathy Connell, a longtime Steamboat resident and member of Colorado’s Transportation Commission, agrees with those who feel unsafe on the state’s roads.
“I think their concerns are valid,” she said.
She pointed to the winter months as especially dangerous times to drive in Colorado. In the eight years she has been a transportation commissioner, this winter has posed the most challenges to the Colorado Department of Transportation.
“This is going to be a record year for Mother Nature really dealing us some potential blows,” she said.
Two avalanches closed busy Interstate 70 on Sunday as many people were driving back from trips to ski resorts. According to Colorado State Patrol, no vehicles were caught in the avalanche, and no injuries were reported.
Connell added, as these big storms have hit, more tourists have taken to Colorado’s roads — people who are not used to driving through blizzards or on ice.
“I am not as concerned about my ability to drive as I am about the person coming the other way,” she said.
Connell has seen and heard of many people who either rent four-wheel drive vehicles that make them over-confident in their capabilities, or they try to maneuver inclement weather in cars not designed for winter driving.
“Then you get the series of clogs on I-70 when someone doesn’t know how to drive and is not adequately equipped,” she said.
Locally, Connell said the section of U.S. Highway 40 between Kremmling and Rabbit Ears Pass does not have adequate shoulder space for drivers who may need to stop on the roadside. That has always concerned her, especially in the winter months.
“When there are inclement conditions, there’s nowhere to pull off and feel safe,” she said.
The answer to most of these problems, Connell said, is funding. At the moment, she said the Colorado Department of Transportation only has enough money to maintain the state’s roads.
Making them better and safer will require a larger budget.
“We need to do more than just keep up,” Connell said.
Cpt. Douglas Conrad of the Colorado State Patrol understands the issue of maintaining safe roads with limited resources. He represents Troop 4B, which patrols five counties — Routt, Moffat, Rio Blanco, Grand and Jackson.
He has heard requests from people who would like to see more troopers on the roads. But with only 25 of them on staff, maintaining a strong presence over such a large area isn’t feasible.
“It is extremely hard to just increase the State Patrol exponentially,” he said. “It’s just not possible.”
This points to a nationwide issue concerning a lack of people pursuing jobs in law enforcement. In a national survey of more than 400 police departments, 66 percent said their number of job applicants has decreased.
While some may want to see more troopers on the roads, people’s interactions with those troopers appeared largely positive last year, according to the State Patrol survey.
Ninety-four percent of respondents said they were satisfied with how troopers acted during traffic stops or other incidents.
“Even when the survey respondent received a citation for violating the law, they felt treated with respect and listened to throughout the contact,” according to the survey.
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