Editor’s note: Letters to the Editor have not been edited nor fact-checked.
Eighty people died in traffic crashes in El Paso County in 2022, 56 of those people died in Colorado Springs, robbing families of parents, children, sisters, brothers, husbands, and wives. Hundreds more people were seriously injured, forever changing their lives. In July, Officer Nicholas Hamaker’s police cruiser was hit head-on causing career-ending injuries. Dangerous roads have made our city the most deadly place in Colorado (per capita) to get around, reducing the quality of life in our amazing city. Prior to 2020 congestion was the only thing preventing the deaths we see today. Drivers simply can’t drive as dangerously when traffic prevents them from doing so. During the pandemic, while people were driving less, the lack of congestion revealed the serious design flaws of our wide and fast roads; they are deadly.
The story printed in the debut of The Sixty35, The Deadliest Year, only proposed one solution, personal responsibility. Please know that personal responsibility alone has not and will not solve our growing problem with people dying on our roads. Roadway deaths are not a problem we can enforce or self police our way out of either. We, as a city and as a nation, need to change our culture to realize that driving is an inherently dangerous activity, especially for those outside of a vehicle. Our roads and streets have been designed since the 1950s to prioritize speed. This has led to the traffic fatality epidemic that we’re in today. We need to design our roads in ways that make it easier to drive safely.
When an airplane crashes does the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) simply blame the pilot? When a train crashes, does the NTSB simply blame the operator? No, in these cases the agencies involved investigate the system and implement solutions addressing all the problems that lead to the crash. We must apply the same scrutiny to investigate the systems that make our roads so deadly.
The driver who severely injured Officer Hamaker was on drugs, specifically meth. Our current policies expect intoxicated drivers to get behind the wheel as little to no other options exist, depending on location and the time of day. Instead of forcing people to drive when they shouldn’t, public transit needs to be made convenient and frequent so driving isn’t the only option. Constant property damage, death, and injuries caused by these crashes are a drain on our economy and mental well being. Other countries have had this same problem and have designed safer streets to address them. The technology and knowledge exists to address systems making our streets deadly, but without the political will to implement the solutions nothing will change. Today, we are planning for cars. We need to change that mentality and the policies that enforce it. The only way to make our roads safer is by shifting our mindset to embrace the beauty of Colorado Springs and start planning for people, not cars.