November 29, 2021

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CDOT expands Safety Patrol program to help motorists, reduce risk of secondary crashes

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What to know about express lanes and toll roads

Colorado has 120 miles of express lanes with 103 more miles under construction.

Miles Blumhardt, Fort Collins Coloradoan

You might not notice the vehicles driving Interstate 25 until you see them helping move disabled vehicles to reduce backups after a crash, helping a motorist fix a flat tire or fueling a vehicle that ran out of gas.

The Colorado Department of Transportation’s $6.1 million Safety Patrol program helps motorists on I-25 from Fort Collins to Colorado Springs and along I-70 west of Denver. 

The program has been in place since 1992 and has helped 500,000 motorists during that time. 

And thanks to a $525,000 sponsorship from GEICO, additional coverage has been added to portions of I-76 and I-270 in Denver. 

“Getting lanes back open after a crash is important for two reasons,” said John Lorme, CDOT’s director of maintenance and operations. “It opens lanes to traffic faster and it reduces the number of secondary crashes — and often those are worse than the first crash.”

Lorme said 20% of crashes result from a previous crash and that for every minute a primary incident remains a hazard, the likelihood of a secondary crash increases by 2.8%. He said Safety Patrol clears incidents on Colorado highways in less than 12 minutes, which dramatically reduces the likelihood of a second crash.

“They also provide traffic control after crashes so first responders can focus on treating patients instead of worrying about traffic, which might be the deadliest thing they face during their shift,” Lorme said.

The Move Over Law in Colorado requires drivers to move over a lane for stopped vehicles to protect first responders. If that is not possible, drivers must reduce speed by 20 mph if the speed limit is 45 mph or more or drive less than 25 mph if the speed limit is 40 mph or less.

CDOT said more than 220 reported traffic crashes occur daily in the Denver region. About 120,000 occur statewide annually, 40,000 of which the Safety Patrol assists. That number is increasing as more people move into the state and return to driving more following the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Safety Patrol also removes debris from roads, reports maintenance needs and assists stranded motorists for free from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays and from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekends.

Construction zone crashes: I-25 sees significant increase

Reporter Miles Blumhardt looks for stories that impact your life. Be it news, outdoors, sports — you name it, he wants to report it. Have a story idea? Contact him at [email protected] or on Twitter @MilesBlumhardt. Support his work and that of other Coloradoan journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today. 

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