Understaffed Colorado Springs police force struggling to keep up with rising number of traffic fatalities

As Colorado sees a record number of people on the roads, traffic deaths are also increasing
Published: Jul. 18, 2022 at 6:01 PM MDT|Updated: Jul. 19, 2022 at 5:10 AM MDT
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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) - Colorado is on track to see the most traffic-related deaths in a single year statewide in 20 years.

And that’s on the heels of a 19-year high in 2021, when traffic deaths reached nearly 700 in Colorado, the most seen since 2002.

The story is the same in Colorado Springs, as the city has also been seeing a record number of people on roads, according to police. However, police say they aren’t staffed enough to deal with these rising numbers.

“As we have less officers on the street, it makes it harder for us to conduct targeted enforcement or just to be able to do general traffic enforcement when we are running from call to call to call,” said Robert Tornabene, the civilian public information officer with CSPD.

These rising numbers are exactly what the Colorado Department of Transportation says it hopes to address in a three-day safety summit in Loveland, which is bringing together national, regional and local officials and advocates.

Just this year, CDOT says the state has seen over 350 deaths on Colorado roads, which they say is more than what was seen this time last year.

The department also tells 11 News that this is part of an ongoing trend, with the state seeing a 50% increase in the number of deaths on state roads in the last 10 years. Sam Cole, CDOT’s traffic safety communication manager, said CDOT has been examining the contributing factors to this rise.

“Well, some of the major contributors to traffic fatalities in Colorado include excessive speed, people not wearing seat belts and impaired driving,” he said. “But we’re also seeing some of these emerging issues like distracted driving, people on their phones, that’s really just gotten out of control over the last five or 10 years.”

He also said the summit will focus on “vulnerable roadway users” such as bicyclists and pedestrians, who CDOT says is at the most risk.

Cole was sure to mention that law enforcement plays a big role in reducing these numbers. He told 11 News that he hopes to send participants in the summit home with ideas on how to target enforcement toward distracted and impaired driving. This is one issue Tornabene said police are struggling with.

“Unfortunately, in order to target enforcement, you have to have a specific location. It’s all over town, so it’s not allowing us to identify a specific area or an environmental issue that’s a factor,” he said.

No matter what strategies come from CDOT’s safety summit, Tornabene says enforcement will be difficult without the manpower.

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