Drivers warn each other about near head-on crashes on U.S. 285 at Shaffer's Crossing

CDOT considering additional safety steps

BAILEY, Colo. - A stretch of U.S. 285 near Bailey has drivers concerned about the potential for head-on crashes.

Last week, a semi-truck drove off an embankment at Shaffer's Crossing, killing the driver.

Recently, the Colorado Department of Transportation reconstructed the section of Highway 285 at Elk Creek Road. Drivers now exit the highway and cross under a bridge to get onto Elk Creek Road. Previously, drivers had to turn across traffic which resulted in a number of crashes.

Since the reconstruction, residents who regularly drive Highway 285 at Shaffer's Crossing have taken to the blog, Pinecam.com, to complain and warn about the dangers of a curve known to have southbound cars drive into oncoming traffic.

"I looked up and there was a man in my lane coming right at me. I think he swerved at about the same time I swerved," said Traci Wills.

Last month, Wills was driving with her family from Bailey to Evergreen -- northbound on Highway 285 -- in the left lane, when she said a vehicle coming southbound crossed into her lane and nearly hit her head-on. Instead, the two sport utility vehicles side-swiped each other.

"Wiped out my mirror," said Wills. "Nobody got hurt."

Southbound traffic is one lane coming around the downhill curve at Shaffer's Crossing. The northbound traffic has two lanes as it curves up hill. There is a median with double-yellow lines just ahead of the curve.

"It's a double yellow line. No matter where you're going, you should be on the right hand side of the double yellow line," said Wills.

"What did this driver tell you?" asked 7NEWS reporter Marshall Zelinger.

"He said he wasn't paying attention," said Wills.

She said he was vacationing from Arizona. The damage to her car totaled about $7,000.

"Maybe they need to up the concrete barriers there," said Wills.

A Jersey barrier is the type of concrete divider that separates traffic on highways like Interstates 25 and 70. That type of protection may not be possible in the area, according to CDOT, because of winter hazards. The barriers  could cause problems for snow plows and could also create ice on the roadway when ice melts and flows downhill.

"What can be done to stop the newest crashes?" asked Zelinger.

"You know, with any of our roadways, we constantly look at them and we constantly look at the rate of incidents or accidents and crashes in the area," said CDOT spokeswoman Amy Ford. "We've got a lot of different options on the table, whether it be flashing arrows, whether it be looking at Jersey barriers."

Since the reconstruction of Shaffer's Crossing, CDOT has made additional improvements where the road curves. There are two electronic signs before the curve for southbound traffic that read: "Divided Highway, Keep Right." CDOT also grooved the center line with rumble strips to rattle a car's tires straying across the line. Plastic green reflectors known as, "Lollipops," were also installed in the center median.

"While we have taken some steps, we will be continuing to look out whether there are additional steps," said Ford. "It's a combination of that curve and in a combination of those speeds, we see some people straying over the middle line in that particular area."

"There's just been way too many close calls and it's been very lucky that nobody's been hurt or killed," said Marcia Allen.

In late May, Allen sent a complaint to CDOT after nearly getting hit head-on driving northbound.

"(A) white van crossed over right in front of me and was coming straight at me. We just barely missed each other. I don't know how we missed each other. I was shocked," said Allen.  "I ended up in the median and I sat there for about five minutes just in shock that I was alive because I honestly didn't think I was going to live through it."

7NEWS asked for accident statistics for that stretch of road. CDOT recorded 10 crashes between 2010 and 2012.

"It is very scary," said Wills. "It's going to kill somebody."

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