Cops pin fatal Highway 9 accidents on driver error |

Cops pin fatal Highway 9 accidents on driver error

summit daily news
Summit Daily/Brad Odekirk

SUMMIT COUNTY – The stretch of Highway 9 between Kremmling and Silverthorne where a Routt County man was killed last week has taken several lives in the past two years. A little driver awareness could solve some of the dangers, said Colorado State Patrol (CSP) Capt. Ron Prater,

In the most recent accident, Arizona resident Dan Robbins lost control of his Dodge Viper near Green Mountain Reservoir and smashed into a guardrail.

His passenger, 22-year-old Jeffrey Harris, was killed.

According to a CSP report, Robbins was driving well over the 65 mph speed limit when the crash occurred on Friday, June 10.

In 2003, four people were killed on the same stretch of road, with three lost lives in one accident.

Because it is a state roadway, Highway 9 is under the CSP’s jurisdiction.

Prater says the road is neither unsafe, nor is it poorly designed.

Rather, many of the problems in that area are caused by driver error.

“I do think that people are driving too fast, they’re making illegal, unsafe passes out there,” Prater said. “It’s cases of people just outright violating the law.”

Prater has six troopers to cover 58 miles of Interstate 70, sections of Highways 6, 9, 40 and 91 and secondary roads in Summit and Clear Creek counties.

With limited resources, he has to prioritize manpower, he said.

According to data collected on fatal or injury accidents from 1999 to 2003, I-70 and Highway 9 between Frisco and Breckenridge see more accidents than Highway 9 north of Silverthorne.

CSP also staffs troopers on the Grand County side out of its Hot Sulphur Springs office.

The Summit County Sheriff’s Office keeps any eye on the highway up to the county line, most regularly by employing a deputy who lives in Heeney who works speed enforcement on his way to the central part of the county, Sheriff John Minor said.

Undersheriff Walt Eldridge of the Grand County Sheriff’s Office routinely has deputies patrol the Grand County portion of Highway 9. He said he thinks the dangers on the road are caused by a combination of factors – speed, traffic and weather conditions.

In July 2003, three seasonal workers from the Czech Republic who were living in Steamboat Springs were killed when the driver of their car pulled into a passing lane and collided with a tanker truck.

Prater said the accident represented a case of driver impatience.

“No one was doing anything illegal,” he said.

A fourth Steamboat Springs resident died the following day after he swerved into oncoming traffic in the same area. The wreck was not the result of speeding, Prater said.

In 2003, the Colorado Department of Transportation completed a $14 million improvement project on a six-mile stretch of the highway beginning nine miles north of I-70. The work included widening shoulders, softening curves and building retaining walls.

Prater said more road work isn’t necessarily the solution.

“These problems would go away if people would slow down a bit and have a little respect for people they’re sharing the road with,” Prater said.

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