Sheriff takes hard line on Highway 9
BRECKENRIDGE – The Summit County Sheriff’s Office isn’t going to let speed be a factor in any accidents on Highway 9 north of Silverthorne. A new zero-tolerance policy on speeders has resulted in more than 100 tickets in the past week.
Sheriff Joe Morales announced the crackdown Thursday in a press release, noting the enforcement is in response to recent accidents on the rural stretch of road.
On July 24, three Slovakian women from Steamboat Springs died in a collision when the driver of their car attempted to pass another vehicle and hit a truck that was also attempting to pass. The driver was arrested for careless driving causing death.
The following day, a senior citizen died in an accident on the same span of Highway 9 near Green Mountain Reservoir. None of the four victims waswearing seat belts.
According to the Sheriff’s Office statement, Morales has increased the number of officers patrolling the area with marked and unmarked cars. The speed limit is 55 mph immediately north of Silverthorne and 65 mph near Heeney and the reservoir. Fines associated with infractions are doubled in the construction zones through the area.
Speeding can result in six points assessed against a driver’s license, improper passing three points and careless driving four points. Violators on all three counts would lose their driver’s license. Reckless driving carries an eight-point penalty and carries a misdemeanor charge.
“It’s something we’ve been concerned about since before these accidents,” said Jill Berman, public information officer for the Sheriff’s Office. “These recent events have just escalated the seriousness and intensity.”
The heavy-handed enforcement came as good news to citizens such as Heeney resident Ann Marie Damian. In July 1999, Damian’s husband, Summit County Chamber of Commerce executive director Jack Taylor, was critically injured on Highway 9 in an aborted attempt to pass another vehicle.
Damian said that she’s strongly advocating road improvements but that problems with envelope-pushing drivers continue, despite the recent crashes and deaths.
“This is definitely good news,” she said.
Earlier this week, the Colorado Department of Transportation responded to questions about the safety of Highway 9 by explaining its safety analysis formula. The state agency evaluates accident numbers over time and compares the piece of road with similar legs of pavement around the state. The Highway 9 stretch is rated as a modest .07; the average is 0. (The higher the number the more unsafe the road.)
“I think CDOT’s making up the rules as they go along,” Damian said. “Only eight of the 37 miles of that road are in good condition, and 19 people have died in 10 years. That’s considered safe?”
Reid Williams can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 237, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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