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Lights and Traffic Control: A Tragic Malfunction

Posted in Blog on April 15, 2015

traffic lights in Denver

On Friday, August 14, 2014, Kimberly Mears, 50, and her son Raley Mears, lost their lives in an automobile crash at the intersection of Bradley and Marksheffel Roads in East Colorado Springs.

While the local police and traffic engineers are still investigating the incident, Colorado Springs’ senior traffic engineer, Kathleen Krager, told The Gazette that an early review of the traffic signal’s control log indicated the signal lights were not working correctly at the time of the accident, which was around 12 noon.

According to police, Mears and her son were traveling westbound in a red Ford Mustang on Bradley Road when they were “T-boned” by a Dodge model pickup truck that was headed southbound on Marksheffel Road. The driver of the Dodge survived the crash, and is currently hospitalized as a result and reportedly in stable condition.

Other Traffic Light Deaths

Since East Colorado Springs added the traffic light back in 2006, there have been a total of 30 accidents, including three fatalities, as evidenced by police records reviewed by The Gazette. No serious injuries were reported in the other 27 accidents.

The additional fatality was Noelle Pearl Fleming, a 17-year-old Mesa Ridge High School student who died in 2007 when the car she was in turned into a pickup truck’s path. City officials noted the accident rate is reasonable and that crashes at a right angle have decreased since the intersection became part of the city and received a traffic light.

In fact, city traffic technician Bryan Curtis explains that accident rates have decreased at the intersection since the light was installed, despite an overall increase in general traffic in the area.

The light, Curtis notes, is at a unique intersection in a rural area with a lower-than-average traffic rate and is the only one in the city that rests at red. It is the traffic light’s unusual pattern, which is to stay red in all four directions until vehicles approach, that is a crucial part of the investigation into the accident that claimed the lives of a mother and her young son.

Krager publicly noted that the lights weren’t operating correctly at the time of the accident, but failed to provide further details. The city has been monitoring the traffic light since the accident and it has functioned properly.

As such, there are currently no plans to remove it or alter the manner in which it operates. This could change pending additional results of the police investigation, which is ongoing with the help and support of the city’s Traffic Control Department.

Both Krager and Curtis noted that the traffic light’s pattern of all red at rest is meant to slow drivers down. Since the light is already red while a driver is approaching, there’s less motivation for the driver to speed up to “beat” an upcoming red light.

However, the distinct pattern can produce very dangerous and deadly conditions if the light is not working properly, which may have been the case in this tragic accidentLearn more at: www.zanerhardenlaw.com.

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