Aurora Police and traffic engineers discuss safety improvements for I-225 and 17th Place interchange

Police: red-light runners to blame for accidents

AURORA, Colo. - Aurora Police met with city traffic engineers on Tuesday to address the danger of one of the city's newest intersections.

Since it was opened in February, there have been nine accidents on 17th Place over Interstate 225 near the new Fitzsimmons campus.

The worst accident happened in April when two were killed, including a baby girl. In the last two weeks, there have been two more accidents.

"I have an injury on my neck, a broken left wrist (and) two dislocated shoulders. I have a sprained ankle and a broken right hip," said accident victim Sandy Mena. "Eventually, I'm going to need a hip replacement, and it's hard to find out at (age) 26."

She also had internal bleeding from her spleen and kidney, a broken humerus, eight broken ribs, and she needed surgery on her knee.

Mena was driving to work at University of Colorado Hospital on Sept. 9. She was in her 2005 Nissan Pathfinder, going southbound on the 17th Place off-ramp from I-225.

According to the police accident report, she had the green light, but was T-boned by a 2006 Hyundai sedan traveling westbound on 17th Place. Police said the driver of the sedan ran a red light.

"As soon as I hit 17th, I saw the car coming in my direction," said Mena.

"Do you think that's a dangerous intersection?" asked 7NEWS reporter Marshall Zelinger.

"I didn't think so until I heard about all these accidents," said Mena.

Aurora Police are concerned about the string of wrecks.

"It is something that has gotten our attention and we would certainly like people to be safe," said Aurora Police Traffic Lt. Jeff Turner.

"Nine in seven months; is that a lot?" asked Zelinger.

"It's high enough to certainly get our attention, yes," said Turner.

"Is this a dangerous intersection?" asked Zelinger.

"It's an intersection that's had a fair number of accidents," said Turner. "Anytime we see an area that has a higher than normal number of accidents, we want to take a look at it and see if there's something that can be done with design or enforcement or whatever."

He said the accidents are the result of drivers running the red light at 17th Place where southbound I-225 drivers are exiting or continuing onto the Colfax exit.

Turner met with a traffic engineer on Tuesday to come up with ways to make the intersection safer. Rumble strips embedded in the pavement to alert drivers by rattling their tires are an option. Aurora Police also have red-light cameras set up at many intersections.

In the meantime, Turner said the engineers would set up a "tattletale" light on the back side of the stoplight.

Essentially, the tattletale light allows an officer to be on the side of the street that a red-light runner would drive toward, but still be able to know the driver ran the red light.

"It's a small blue light on the backside of the signal. It allows us to sit further to the west and we can tell when the light is red for those people. If they run it, we'll be giving them tickets," said Turner.

Similar tattletale lights are already on school-zone flashers.

"We don't like to give tickets, but we need to do something to change the behavior of people running that red light. It's causing a lot of havoc," said Turner.

Any change comes a couple of weeks too late for Mena, who is in the hospital until at least Friday and has months of rehab ahead of her.

"Anything they can do to help and prevent stuff like this from happening," said Mena. "I know it's definitely going to have an impact in my life and in what I'm able to do from now on and I just wouldn't like to see this happen to anyone else."