According to the Colorado State Patrol Regional Data Warehouse, the CSP investigated 14,058 traffic accidents from the beginning of 2017 through June 30. The number of accidents for 2016 totaled 14,168.
According to data obtained from the Falcon Fire Protection District, almost every month this year has resulted in more accidents the department has responded to than the same month in each of the two prior years.
In a call to the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office, Jacqueline Kirby, media relations manager and public information officer, said, "(Colorado) State Patrol handles all the traffic crashes for unincorporated El Paso County. They would be the best ones to speak to that."
Capt. John Lupton with the CSP said the fact that traffic accidents in Falcon are on the rise is no surprise. “Falcon has grown exponentially over the last 15 years or so,” he said. “The volume really is the biggest factor. Look at how many houses they are building and all the new roadways they are constructing. We are pushing the limits of the roads out there.”
Lupton said the best way to deal with the increased traffic volume is to work together to obey the laws and realize that everyone has somewhere to be. “It does not infringe on people’s rights to follow the stated rules,” he said. “But when people put themselves in the position where they think their needs are more important than anyone else’s, it is a problem.”
More people in the Falcon area means there are more commuters to Colorado Springs. Many of those drivers are not familiar with the roadways, which can lead to mistakes like misjudging the distance and speed of an approaching vehicle when turning in front of it, Lupton said.
“People absolutely make mistakes, but many are also distracted while they drive by using their phones or texting,” he said.
According to the Colorado Department of Transportation website, between 2012 and 2015, the 80831 Zip code, which includes Falcon and Peyton, documented 268 accidents involving distracted drivers.
In an email to “The New Falcon Herald,” Brian Eschler, crime analyst with the Colorado State Patrol, wrote: "Crashes in the Falcon area are difficult for the Colorado State Patrol to report on, as this area sits at a convergence of three patrol areas and a state highway."
Eschler wrote that looking at three main roadways in Falcon — Woodmen Road, Meridian Road and a 4-mile stretch of Highway 24 — will provide the best gauge about any changes in the crash volume over the years.
In comparing the first seven months of the years 2014-2017, Eschler wrote the following: Crashes in general are up 36.21 percent from 2014 and 23.44 percent from 2015 and 2016. Crashes along Woodmen Road have remained about the same, but crashes along Meridian Road and Highway 24 have seen sharp increases. For Meridian, the increase is 35.71 percent since 2014 and for Highway 24, the increase is 116.67 percent.
"Based on the crash volume trend seen within the three major roadways in the area, we can extrapolate, with reasonable certainty, that the Falcon area in general is experiencing an upward trend in crash volume as well," Eschler wrote.
“A car is the most dangerous tool you will operate on a daily basis,” Lupton said. “Somehow, we got the idea in America that there was an acceptable amount of accidents. But these are preventable issues by slowing down and keeping driving the main thing you are doing when you are driving.”
Lupton said he encourages anyone who witnesses a distracted or aggressive driver to report it by dialing *277. “We tell people to get a good description of the vehicle, license plate and the driver,” he said. “Troopers try to respond to those calls when they get them but they cannot always do that safely. We ask the people reporting the incident to be willing to go to court to report what they saw.”
Pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers alike need to remember that Falcon is not the rural community it once was, and act accordingly, Lupton said. Pedestrians should not be engrossed in their phones while walking, and accept that they have as much responsibility to be aware of the traffic around them as any driver does, he said.
“We used to do more coaching of our kids,” Lupton said. “We need to be reminding them how things are supposed to work and what to be looking for before they step off the buses or out into the street. Just because a car is supposed to stop for you does not mean it will.”
While the bulk of the responsibility for safe driving falls on the drivers themselves, government agencies work together to fix any problem areas they can, Lupton said. “CDOT (Colorado Department of Transportation) sends a list about all the crashes so the county can see how many there are at the different intersections, and determine what they can do to mitigate those issues,” he said. “The Falcon area is growing at a rate that has surpassed our ability to improve those roadways. Instead, we have to look at the smartest ways to affect traffic safety.”
One way is to ensure proper usage of safety equipment like seat belts, Lupton said. In the 24 years he has been a trooper, Lupton said he has never seen a scenario where the seat belt would have been the “kiss of death” for someone.
According to the CSP data warehouse, 53.2 percent more unrestrained occupant fatalities occurred through June 30, 2017, than through all of 2016.
According to the CDOT website, El Paso County has the highest number of traffic fatalities in the state as of Aug. 14.
“When you have to tell someone their loved one is never coming home, it changes you,” Lupton said.“You are wrecking their lives by telling them about something that is probably preventable, even while wearing the proper safety equipment, like a seatbelt.
“It is critical that we remind the kids that we can stop these insensible deaths or at least reduce them by showing them it is all about doing one thing at a time to the best of your abilities.”