What Does It Mean When Boulder Goes on ‘accident Alert’?
Accident alert is a tool Boulder police use to free up officers during inclement weather when the possibility of traffic crashes increases, but it occasionally comes in handy in other situations.
Boulder police have placed the city on “accident alert” 29 times between 2016 and Tuesday, almost always because of inclement weather. However, during that time period, the city has implemented accident alert four times for other reasons.
“It’s not often that we do that,” said Boulder police Sgt. Lauri Wegscheider. “Sometimes when we get really busy, or there’s a major call going on or we are just running from call to call. Sometimes the city just gets really busy and we are just out of officers.”
During Tuesday’s snowstorm, Boulder police placed the city on accident alert twice, and the Colorado State Patrol placed unincorporated Boulder County on accident alert.
When a city or other police jurisdiction is placed on accident alert, motorists who get into minor crashes that don’t involve injuries, vehicles impeding traffic, or uninsured or impaired drivers are asked to exchange relevant information and report the crash at a later time.
On Oct. 21, Boulder police initiated accident alert because of staffing issues such as officers calling in sick or out on vacation coupled with a high volume of calls. A similar situation on May 22, 2016, also led to an accident alert activation.
When a train derailed near Arapahoe and 55th Street on June 20 , the city went on accident alert, and did so on July 10, 2016, because of the Cold Springs Fire that broke out northeast of Nederland .
Longmont police Cmdr. Joel Post said that his agency doesn’t keep records regarding how often it has gone on accident alert, but it is most often it is done because of inclement weather.
“There could be times with a big incident (when) we could use accident alert,” Post said. “Really, it is an option to use if we don’t have officers available to respond to certain accidents.”
The state patrol investigates traffic crashes in unincorporated portions of Boulder County, and State Trooper Josh Lewis said that while no set policy exists as to when his agency will place the county on “crash alert,” it’s almost always weather related.
“We avoid it as much as possible, because we want that customer service,” he said. “We want to be able to do those on-scene investigations, but when the situation calls for it because of weather or high call volume, yes, we will go on it.”
Wegscheider said that it’s difficult to say how long an officer might be tied up on a traffic crash, because no two are alike, adding that a bus crash, for example, would likely take longer than two cars, and an injury crash will take more time than one where no one is hurt.
“When I was working the night shift, there was maybe once or twice in the years I did it when I put us on accident alert and there wasn’t inclement weather,” she said. “It helped tremendously.”
John Bear: 303-473-1355, firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/johnbearwithme