DENVER — Flowers wrap around a telephone pole on East Yale Way and Madison Street, cascading towards the sky. Nearly three years ago, Michelle Roche lost her son in a car crash just down the street from the memorial.
“His birthday is the coming Sunday,” Roche said. “He would have been 17. A drunken elderly woman turned the corner off of Colorado Boulevard and just plowed right into them like bowling pins and didn’t stop.”
Her son, Cole Sukle, was skating down the street with some friends after a sleepover. Since that day, pedestrian safety hasn’t drastically improved in Denver.
“Distracted driving is most definitely a problem,” said Sgt. Mike Farr with the Denver Police Driving Investigations Unit.
Almost one in four crashes in Denver involves distracted driving, according to Denver Public Works. Speed is a major factor when it comes to car vs. pedestrian accidents.
DPW says if you’re traveling at 30 mph and hit a pedestrian, that person has a 40 percent chance of dying or having a life-altering injury. The percentage goes up to 73 percent when you’re driving 40 mph.
More than half of all car vs. pedestrian crashes in Denver between 2011-2015 are made up of three situations. The number one crash type is crossing mid block, or jaywalking. Number two is a car turning left and hitting a pedestrian in the crosswalk when the pedestrian has the signal.
The third scenario is pedestrians crossing at a crosswalk without the signal.
“It’s a shared responsibility to make sure that I can get to where I’m going safely, but I make sure you’re getting to where you’re going by paying attention,” Sgt. Farr said.
“People can decide in every moment to be a distracted driver, or to pay attention. To drink and drive, or not, or to just go the speed limit,” Roche said. “It’s not worth my son’s life just so you can get to your workout five minutes faster or get to your meeting 10 minutes faster.”
Looking at crash data from January 1st to April 6th, in Denver there have been seven fatal pedestrian crashes this year, compared to four, three and two in 2016, 2017, and 2018 respectively in that same time frame.