Routt County teens most at risk for injury accidents in 2011

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— Young women with their first driver's licenses were the most likely group to become involved in an injury accident here in 2011, but beyond the age of 16, it was the teenage males who assumed that distinction.

Colorado Department of Transportation Traffic Operations Engineer Rich Sarchet told the Routt County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday that Routt County saw 46 injury accidents in 2011, down significantly from a recent high of 76 in 2008. Those 46 injury accidents in 2011 resulted in 68 injuries and three deaths, Sarchet added.

He was among a contingent from CDOT’s Region 3 office, which spans most of the Western Slope, that gave the commissioners an annual update Tuesday.

Sarchet noted that it was curious that 16 year-old-women were more likely to be involved in injury accidents than their male counterparts because the opposite was true for 17- to 21-year-olds. Twenty-two-year-old women were more likely than men of the same age to become injured in a traffic accident in 2011. But in every other age group, it was men who were at greatest risk.

Sarchet arrived at his conclusions by dividing the percent of drivers in an age group who were involved in an injury crash by the percent of all licensed drivers in that age group. The 2011 figures don’t necessarily point out a trend but rather a snapshot of that year.

Sarchet’s research supported the use of seat belts to avoid injuries. Of the 59 motor vehicle occupants who were injured in a crash in 2011, 27 percent were not using seat belts or other restraints. Of the three people who died here in traffic accidents in 2011, two were not wearing seat belts.

Impairment by drugs or alcohol was a leading factor in all crashes here in 2011, but distraction and inexperience were only a fraction of a percentage point behind, according to Sarchet.

Regional Transportation Director Dave Eller told the commissioners that CDOT Executive Director Don Hunt is pushing to find solutions to relieving transportation congestion other than adding additional transportation lanes. In addition, he said, Hunt is looking for room in CDOT’s $1.2 billion annual budget to speed up installation of fiber-optic cable, including along a stretch of the Interstate 70 corridor, that would further CDOT’s goal of monitoring and managing traffic loads through intelligent traffic solutions.

CDOT West Program Engineer Pete Mertes told the commissioners that his agency will try for a permanent solution for the recurring mud slides on Muddy Pass on the east side of Rabbit Ears Pass in summer 2013. They are planning a $4 million project to stabilize the roadway with a structural tieback wall system and drainage. Details of a detour have yet to be determined.

Mertes said paving is under way this week on the latest section of Colorado Highway 131 between Steamboat and Oak Creek. Bids on the new U.S. Highway 40 bridge over the Elk River will be advertised late this fall or early in 2013.

Commissioner Diane Mitsch Bush, who chairs CDOT’s Northwest Transportation Planning Area, praised Region 3 Planning Manager Mark Rogers for facilitating the widening of Colo. 131 as well as the recently completed rockfall mitigation project on U.S. 40 west of Milner.

Region 6 Transportation Commissioner Kathy Connell, of Steamboat Springs, observed it was a shame that it took a traffic death to expedite the rockfall work but said that going forward, the commission intends to be more proactive in that area of public safety.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com

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