Oct 172011
Authors: Darin Atteberry

With so many pedestrians, bikes and cars occupying the same space, the CSU campus and surrounding area can feel crowded. Sometimes people get distracted and fail to communicate. That’s when traffic accidents happen.

In an effort to save lives and bring attention to the issues that affect traffic safety in our community, the city of Fort Collins is designating October as “Traffic Safety Awareness Month.” We’re working to increase awareness of some of the most common types of accidents and how to avoid them.

Bicycle/car accidents are by far the most common, especially on campus, making up roughly 22 percent of serious accidents in the city. This isn’t surprising, given the high volumes of students living in the area, but you can take action to avoid them.

Here are the three most common types of accidents:

Right turning motorist v. bicycle riding against traffic. First, don’t ever ride against traffic. It is easy to do on such a large campus with so many side streets, but it is dangerous, particularly at intersections as right-turning cars may not be looking for you.

Second, don’t ride on sidewalks whenever possible. You are more likely to go unnoticed by motorists and therefore more likely to have a collision.

Right hook. This happens when a motorist trying to make a right turn cuts off a bicycle traveling along side them. There are several ways to avoid this. First, don’t pull up close to a car that is signaling a right turn. It’s best to assume they can’t see you and wait your turn behind the vehicle.

Approach turn. This occurs when a car turning left overtakes a bicyclist going straight the opposite direction. Don’t follow other vehicles too closely when going through an intersection because opposing motorists may not see you. Second, use lights and any other methods to increase your visibility to motorists.

Not surprisingly, inattention and distraction contribute to the vast majority of crashes. I know some might think that they drive just as well while texting or talking on the phone. But studies show that drivers who talk on the phone are four times more likely to get into an accident –– text while driving and you’ll be eight times more likely.

You may remember in 2008, 9-year-old Erica Forney was killed by a driver using a cell phone. I still keep in touch with the Forney family; they have become advocates to stop distracted driving in Colorado and throughout the nation. This relationship has compelled me to make a personal pledge to not be one of those distracted drivers.

Life is busy, and sometimes it seems like your car is the only place where you have a few minutes to catch up with friends. I get it; I’m probably more addicted to my iPhone than anyone! But, driving is a complicated task that requires our undivided attention.

Together, we can make the CSU campus and the entire Fort Collins community safer.

Darin Atteberry is the Fort Collins City Manager and his column appears periodically in the Collegian.

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