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Colorado State Patrol sees 40% drop in fatal traffic crashes in Weld in 2020

Posted on 01/28/2021

The Colorado State Patrol’s 3A Troop in Weld County saw a significant reduction in traffic fatalities in 2020 thanks to partnerships with local law enforcement agencies and increased enforcement on problematic stretches of rural highways.

The increased enforcement, known internally as the Safe Rural Highways Effort, occurred on seven stretches of highway encompassing 250 total miles, including U.S. 85 north of Greeley, Colo. 392 east of Windsor, Colo. 14 from the Larimer County line to 10 miles east of Briggsdale, U.S. 85 south of LaSalle, Colo. 52 east of Fort Lupton, U.S. 34 east of Greeley and Interstate 76 east of Hudson. Historically, those seven stretches of highway have annually accounted for about 50 percent of all fatal crashes in Weld County.

In 2020, Troop 3A responded to a total of 18 traffic fatalities throughout its patrol area in Weld County, which is down from 30 in 2019, or 40 percent. It’s also down 40 percent from the five-year average of 30.8 crashes.

The agency also saw a nearly 50 percent reduction in fatal traffic crashes on those seven targeted highways, responding to nine fatal traffic crashes in 2020, which was down from 17 in 2019 and 18 in 2018.

“Colorado State Patrol is encouraged by the positive outcomes the Weld County communities realized in 2020,” said Colorado State Patrol Troop 3A Capt. Ian Whittington. “We’re grateful for the partnership we have with the Weld County Sheriff’s Office as we continue to make public safety a priority in rural Colorado.”

The state patrol experienced a reduction in fatal traffic crashes by increasing patrols on those designated highways. On the designated rural highways of north and southeast Weld County, state patrol increased traffic contacts by 90 percent in 2020 compared to 2019. It also increased the number of traffic citations by 120 percent.

“This wasn’t a ticket writing campaign,” Whittington said. “Nobody likes getting pulled over, but when enforcement levels increase, highways become safer and safe highways save lives.”

The success of the state patrol’s operations in 2020 has evolved into a unique partnership with the Weld County Sheriff’s Office called Team Ops. Twice per month, troopers and deputies partner on a mutually beneficial mission of public safety through high visibility traffic enforcement, focusing either on a high crime area of interest to the sheriff’s office or a stretch of highway of interest to the state patrol that has traditionally been a problem for fatal or severe injury crashes.

“Law enforcement agencies need to think outside of the box and be innovative to address different problems,” said Alan Caldwell, captain of the WCSO patrol division. “After two missions so far in 2021, we’re seeing the positive effects high-visibility enforcement has not only on making the highways safer, but also as a crime reduction tool.”

Colorado State Patrol Troop 3A patrols an area the encompasses most of Weld County. Its eastern border is Weld County Road 97, 10 miles east of Briggsdale. Troop 3A’s patrol function is typically staffed by 30 state troopers.

The Weld County Sheriff’s Office is responsible for law enforcement in unincorporated areas of the county. The Patrol Division encompasses 84 deputies, including command staff, and works an area that encompasses 4,000-square miles.