Colorado Department of Transportation officials need to listen closer to the cries of anguish and the cries for help coming from Routt County.
And then they need to act.
Too many people are dying in automobile
accidents on Rabbit Ears Pass and the time has come for CDOT to take serious steps to stop the deadly trend. Already this winter, emergency crews have responded to two vicious crashes on Rabbit Ears. One claimed the life of a Front Range trucker and the other put two local residents in the hospital. At the time this editorial was written, one of those people was in serious condition in an intensive care unit.
The death of the trucker increased to eight the
number of traffic fatalities that have occurred on Rabbit Ears in the last 24 months. Of those eight deaths, only one occurred in summer. The rest happened on icy
Scott MacFarland of Steamboat Springs lost his wife, Nancy, in a head-on collision on the pass two winters ago. Since then, has been pushing to get CDOT to make safety improvements to the pass. His crusade should not be in vain.
The reason people are dying on the pass is not because of a lack of maintenance. To the contrary, the CDOT crews assigned to keeping Rabbit Ears Pass clear in winter do a fantastic job, in our estimation.
Instead, the reason people are dying is because
the pass is being driven by the overconfident and the ignorant.
Overconfident drivers drive too fast and ignorant drivers don't know they should slow down.
Overconfidence and ignorance are the main
reasons the number of traffic fatalities on the pass
doubled between 1998 and 1999. It's also why we're on track to match 1999 death for death.
In 1997, no one died in a traffic crash on the pass. But that also was the year the state raised the speed limit on sections of Rabbit Ears from 55 to 60 mph. Since then, eight people have died and many others have been injured.
The first thing CDOT should consider is a
reduced speed limit on the pass, at least in winter.
The statistics strongly indicate that higher speeds
are causing more accidents and more deaths. More importantly, the lawmen we've talked to who patrol the pass say unequivocally that speed is the No. 1 problem.
But we're also seeing too many accidents caused by ignorant drivers as well. They are people who don't understand how dangerous U.S. 40 can be in winter. With that in mind, we're urging CDOT to install lighted signs on the pass at least one on either end. The signs could be solar-powered and would have
changeable messages, like the one near the intersection of U.S. 40 and Colo. 131 south of Steamboat Springs.
By slowing people down and warning them of
danger, we believe CDOT can reverse a trend that has made Rabbit Ears a pass full of killer curves.