By Dillon Thomas

WELD COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – Traffic fatalities on rural Weld County roads were drastically cut down in 2020 thanks to targeted patrolling efforts by both the Weld County Sheriff’s Office and Colorado State Patrol. Both agencies partnered in an effort to save lives in the county as studies showed most fatal crashes took place on rural highways and not on Interstate 25.

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“Weld County historically has been really high for fatalities, and we decided we needed to get that down,” said Trooper Matthew King of Colorado State Patrol.

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Troopers spent 20 percent of their daily shifts specifically patrolling certain stretches of rural roadways that have been problematic in the past. For more than a year, troopers specifically targeted stretches of highways 392, 14, 34, 52 and Interstate 76.

“A group of troopers and a group of deputies will team up on a particular day to work a problem area in the county,” said Alan Caldwell, Captain of WCSO’s Patrol Division.

“We decided to start focusing on target rural highways,” King said. “We started making more traffic stops, we started writing more tickets.”

Studies showed most fatal crashes on those roadways were caused by human error and traffic violations. Violations leading to fatal crashes included running stop signs, speeding, improper lane changes and more.

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“These are the things that are costing you your own lives, and those are the things that have to stop,” King told CBS4’s Dillon Thomas.

CSP and WCSO started issuing more warnings and tickets to those committing traffic violations in an effort to increase awareness of their presence along the roadways. Their efforts directly helped decrease fatality rates in the county in 2020.

Traffic fatalities dropped more than 40 percent along the roadways during their concentrated effort. COVID-19’s impact on decreased travel was ruled out as a factor in that drop as CSP and WCSO saw fatality statistics stay flat in other Colorado counties. Weld was one of the only to see a drastic drop.

(credit: CBS)

“We had this huge impact and were able to reduce the fatalities,” King said.

The partnership, and its effectiveness, helped start the Team Ops program. Now WCSO and CSP will team up regularly to target areas of concern for both traffic and criminal offenses.  New missions are already planned in the coming months.

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“We are expanding our resources and capabilities,” Caldwell said. “The Colorado State Patrol and Weld County Sheriff’s Office are going to be working those areas in the most effective way we know to be keeping them safe.”

Dillon Thomas