LARIMER COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – A 35-mile stretch of Highway 287 in Northern Colorado is becoming so dangerous for the motoring public that Colorado State Patrol troopers, Larimer County Sheriff deputies and other law enforcement agencies have pledged to increase patrol along the stretch between Fort Collins and Laramie, Wyoming. CSP Larimer Trooper Paul Dirkes said the increase in serious and fatal crashes along the stretch is linked back to improper lane changes, speeding and intoxicated drivers.
“We are considering this a hot zone in Larimer County,” Dirkes told CBS4’s Dillon Thomas.
The drive between the two college towns is peppered with commuters of all types. Truckers use the highway, as do college kids and those trying to get out for a scenic drive on a motorcycle.
The highway twists and rolls through canyons, plains and near-mountainous terrain. In the spring and fall time, a driver can experience snow, rain and sunshine in a one-hour drive.
Because the highway is isolated from metropolitan areas, Dirkes said many drivers are more dangerous with their driving.
“We are seeing speed being an issue, bad passes being an issue, as well as driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs,” Dirkes said. “We are out here to save lives. That is our number one priority.”
Dirkes, and other officers, have pledged to increase their patrols along Highway 287 to try and curb the number of serious crashes and deaths. For Trisha Potter of Maryland, the efforts by law enforcement serve as a glimmer of hope amid tragedy.
“It is extremely important that they step up enforcement,” Potter said.
Potter’s daughter, Sienna, was riding in a vehicle with friends on Highway 287 in February. They were headed north to Laramie, where Sienna attended the University of Wyoming when a driver heading south drifted into their lane.
Sienna was in the passenger seat of the car when it T-boned the oncoming vehicle.
“It has been a very awful thing to go through. My daughter was just starting her adult life, she had a full future ahead of her,” Potter said. “Both my daughter, Sienna, and one of her good friends died in the accident.”
The driver who caused the crash, a young man who was driving home to have dinner with family in Fort Collins, was also killed.
“It’s difficult to put into words how I felt when I found out Sienna had been in the crash and didn’t make it,” Potter said with tears in her eyes.
Potter said the gravity of the loss was even greater when she learned the driver who caused the crash was intoxicated, with traces of marijuana found in his system during an autopsy.
“I miss her hugs. Every holiday we will miss her, there will be an empty chair at the table,” Potter said. “Our lives will never be the same.”
Dirkes said CSP has asked CDOT to install snow fencing along portions of 287 to make the roadway safer. Troopers and deputies plan to increase their presence along the roadway to try and knock down speeding, improper lane changes and drug usage.
“We are here to save lives,” Dirkes said. “The more eyes we have on the road, the safer we are all going to be.”
Potter said the pain of losing a daughter will be something she will never fully get over. But, knowing that law enforcement officers are doing their part to prevent further tragedies gives her hope.
“If it were to prevent another family from having to go through what we went through, that would be worth the time and money they spent on increasing enforcement,” Potter said.