Wildlife zones require drivers to slow down
The Colorado Department of Transportation is warning motorists to remember to slow down when they drive through a newly designated wildlife zone around the state.
One hundred miles of Colorado highways have been designated around Colorado, where motorists are required to slow down to avoid running over wildlife.
The zones were called for as part of a pilot project from a bill sponsored last year by state Sen. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass Village, and then-Rep. Kathleen Curry, an unaffiliated lawmaker from Gunnison.
From Sept. 1 through April 30, motorists on these sections must slow down to at least 55 mph.
“The CSP (Colorado State Patrol) will continue our enforcement efforts in wildlife zones, and the good news after 15 months is that we are seeing a reduction in crashes for some areas,” said Capt. Rich Duran, who works in the State Patrol’s Glenwood Springs office. “This could be directly attributed to the signage and speed reductions, but we’ll have to review all data at the end of this pilot initiative to know for sure.”
The new law calls for doubled fines for motorists caught speeding in wildlife zones.
The pilot initiative is designed not only to protect wildlife, but prevent property damage and save human lives, said Carole Walker, executive director of the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association.
“The insurance industry pays out nearly $1.1 billion a year in claims for all wildlife-vehicle collisions nationwide,” Walker said. “The average property damage cost of animal-vehicle collisions is estimated at $3,103, up 1.7 percent from a year ago.”
To go along with the reduced speed limit and wildlife-corridor signs it has installed, the Transportation Department plans to post other reminders around the region.
The department has designated 13 sections of mountain highways for the wildlife zones, including a 10-mile section of Colorado Highway 13 north of Rifle and the 11-mile stretch of U.S. Highway 550 between Montrose and Ridgway.
Other areas are near Meeker, Kremmling, Aspen and Blue Mesa Reservoir west of Gunnison.