The next segment of our Crash Trends Series discusses the dangers associated with lane changes and violations that can potentially lead to accident injuries, fatalities and property loss along Colorado roadways. Colorado clearly has problems with traffic fatalities, with 545 in 2015, which represented a 10% rise over 488 in 2014. 2015 was also the all-time high for motorcycle fatalities within Colorado, with a total of 104. With 3.8 million estimated drivers in Colorado, the chances of a fatality are roughly 1 in 7,000. A recent study showed that lane violations are the cause in 8.4% of overall accidents, and yearly over 400 injuries or deaths typically occur. Colorado State Patrol (CSP) Trooper Paul Dirkes explained that lane violations lag slightly behind DUIs for accidents involving injuries or death--the 4th most common cause.
Colorado Lane Laws
The state law defines a non-passing lane as one located to the right of a passing lane when two (or more) lanes are both moving in the same direction. A passing lane is generally the lane furthest to the left side unless this lane is designated as a high occupancy (express) lane. Motorists are not to travel in the passing lane along roads with a speed limit of 65 mph or greater unless in the act of passing or preparing for a left turn. The left lane law is not applicable when a motorist is restricted by a high volume of traffic that would make it dangerous to move into the non-passing lane. The Colorado State Patrol is obligated to enforce lane violations as part of their overall statutory goal of controlling and regulating traffic in a manner that maximizes public safety and efficient movement of traffic.
Frustration Caused By Left Lane Travelers
The CSP is cognizant of the many acts that heighten aggressive driving and road rage, most of which are caused by traffic flow problems. When slow-moving motorists travel in the left lane, it can create unnecessary traffic congestion and those traveling behind them tend to become frustrated, potentially leading to acts of aggressive driving. The state's statute requires that speed be maintained at a “reasonable or prudent” level based on the conditions. Prior to the implementation of the “left lane” law, officers were unable to cite drivers for traveling in the left lane as long as they maintained the minimum speed limit. The CSP believes that the left lane laws are capable of balancing the needs for both public safety and efficient traffic flow.
Left Lane Law Implementation & Penalties
Although you may pass in the right lane in Colorado, most drivers are aware that the left lane is the best for passing. In addition to improved traffic flow, the law allows for better enforcement as well. The law was established in 2004 and citations began to be issued in 2005. Violators of the law may be issued a citation for $35.00, which is actually $41.20 with added fees. In addition, three points are posted on the violator's driving record, unless the payment is sent within 20 days, which reduces the number of points to two.
Advances in Technology
Two common newer technologies that are designed to improve lane safety include what are generally referred to as “Blind Spot Monitoring” (or detection) and “Lane Departure Warning” (or lane assist). Blind spot monitoring systems typically utilize cameras or radar devices to scan the sides at the rear of the vehicle where drivers tend to have difficulty seeing. If a vehicle is detected, an alert is triggered which may visually appear in the side view mirror or audibly. The lane departure systems may use cameras or similar sensors to detect if your vehicle is “drifting” outside of your lane of travel and can trigger an alert. Some advanced versions of the lane departure technology have an “assist” function which is capable of applying the brakes or slightly moving the steering wheel to correct the position of the vehicle. Thus far, these systems have shown to be effective. The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety says that the blind spot systems can reduce crashes by at least 14%, while the lane departure systems reduce collisions by at least 11%.