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CSPD lacks consistent data on traffic fatalities, but some patterns appear 

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Around 11 p.m. on Halloween, Christopher Seal, 44, stepped off the curb into North Academy Boulevard, just north of Austin Bluffs Parkway. That step would ultimately break a record set in 1986.

A black Chevrolet Impala struck and killed Seal — who wasn't in a crosswalk — before fleeing the scene, according to a statement from the Colorado Springs Police Department. The driver, Robert Valencia, 26, was later charged with one count of felony Accidents Involving Death.

Seal was the year's 44th traffic fatality, breaking the 1986 record with two months still remaining in 2018. As of Nov. 19, there have been a total of 47 traffic-related deaths in the city — more than one for every 10,000 residents. The city is taking steps to address this somber reality, implementing additional grant-funded speeding enforcement at high-collision intersections, adding four red-light cameras and reducing speeds on four roadways.

One thing they don't seem to be doing? Collecting data specifically on traffic fatalities.

Though police spokesperson Lt. Howard Black says the department regularly conducts data analysis to determine the best spots for speeding enforcement, it turns out police don't keep a list of fatalities with detailed causes, or even dates and locations.

So the Indy sifted through press releases and the police blotter (described as "preliminary data" that is "subject to change") for reports of fatalities, and the department provided a handful of press releases for the incidents we couldn't find. Through this imperfect data-gathering process, we were able to scrounge up information on 42 of the 47 deaths. Not all of the information is complete — for example, names, ages and possible causes were only available for some — nor would the police department provide dates or locations for the cases that were missing.

Here's what we found by analyzing the data we could access: The typical victim of a traffic collision in the Springs falls between the ages of 25 and 64. In the majority of cases, based on preliminary descriptions of the incidents, the victim appeared to be at fault. And surprisingly, most fatal crashes didn't involve two cars.

In fact, only nine out of 42 incidents were two-vehicle collisions. Eleven were single-car crashes, usually involving a driver who lost control and veered out of a lane. Another 11 were vehicle-pedestrian crashes; eight involved a collision between an automobile and a bicycle or motorcycle; and the remaining three were single-motorcycle crashes.

No matter the type of crash, distraction is a big concern, Black says.

"We have so many of these fatalities that are occurring with pedestrians," he says. "The pedestrian, you know, made a bad choice: They weren't in a crosswalk, they were walking against the light. So it's all of us together; whether you're a bicyclist, a pedestrian, a motorcyclist or you're in a motor vehicle, we all have got to slow down and pay attention."

Most of the fatalities occurred at intersections, and three locations saw multiple deaths: South Academy and Astrozon boulevards (three pedestrian deaths within two weeks), North Academy Boulevard and Village Road (two crashes in two days, both involving a motorcycle), and South Nevada Avenue and Las Vegas Street (two vehicle-pedestrian crashes).

However, we did notice that the vast majority of fatal wrecks occurred on several major roads. Academy Boulevard was deadliest with 12 crashes. Woodmen Road was second with five, followed by Interstate 25 with four.

We asked if increased road construction due to a voter-approved tax known as 2C had contributed to the deaths, but city officials said they didn't believe it had. Instead, they attribute the rise in wrecks partly to an uptick in speeding, impaired driving and distraction. And it's impossible to ignore another obvious factor: There are simply more people on our roads every year.

Census estimates indicate that the city's population grew by almost 50,000 people between 2010 and 2017, and state forecasts predict that the Springs will surpass Denver by 2050. We're also edging closer to Denver's total number of traffic fatalities for the year, which was 53 as of Nov. 19.

"It is, after all, a statistical issue, and as you have more cars on the road, you have more likelihood of accidents," says Kathleen Krager, senior city traffic engineer. But she cautions that congestion is more likely to result in fender-benders than fatal accidents, and cites speed as the biggest factor contributing to fatalities: "What we're seeing sort of citywide is a tendency for people to drive 10 miles per hour over the speed limit, where it used to be common for people to drive 5 miles per hour over the speed limit."

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