One day in 1989, a young boy was on his way to school when an automobile driver tragically struck and killed him. Resulting from this untimely loss, the Colorado Springs City Council sought action to mobilize individuals to prevent traffic-related tragedies in the future. In response, DRIVE SMART COLORADO, a 501(c) 3 nonprofit organization, formed. DRIVE SMART serves all ages from infants in safety seats to senior drivers within the Pikes Peak region. The strength of DRIVE SMART is being able to unite agencies, businesses, and organizations on a regular basis that are committed to creating safer driving for everyone on the roadways.
This nationally recognized program works with coalitions to enhance existing programs or to create new strategies and campaigns—all with their core mission “to reduce the number of traffic crashes through community collaboration and education.” Its campaign motto encourages drivers to think about their responsibilities behind the wheel, which is to become “smart drivers.”
Since its inception, DRIVE SMART has formed a steering committee comprised of 50 members from area law enforcement agencies, city traffic engineering, public health, schools, insurance agencies, military installations, local businesses, hospitals, emergency medical services, community nonprofit coalitions, and concerned citizens. For the past 20 years, DRIVE SMART has remained an active and vital part of the Colorado Springs community. They also are building upon their statewide effort by reaching out to rural parts of the state, along with the Colorado State Patrol, rural local law enforcement agencies, and community members.
The Colorado Department of Transportation reports that El Paso County (one of the largest Colorado counties and home for DRIVE SMART) holds one of the state’s highest seat belt use rates. This is due to the strong partnership between local and state law enforcement agencies, notably the Colorado State Patrol (CSP), Colorado Springs Police Department (CSPD), and El Paso County Sheriff’s Office (EPSO), along with the other coalition members.
These partners have created a forum whereby the blurring of boundaries and jurisdictional lines has created a dynamic and unique opportunity to capitalize on a coordinated effort. While each partner significantly contributes to the mission, the CSP has worked side-by-side with CSPD and EPSO to collaborate on community policing strategies.
Three distinct initiatives that highlight the role of the CSP are the DRIVE SMART High School Traffic Safety Challenge, the Street Racing Task Force, and the DUI Task Force. The safety challenge is presented to an average of 25 high schools annually. The CSP joined with DRIVE SMART members to form the Street Racing Task Force to eliminate the problem of street racing in our communities. The CSP created the Take It to the Track Program as a way to give “racing enthusiasts” the opportunity to race in a safe, legal manner. The third illustration of CSP’s role is the Pikes Peak Region DUI Task Force comprised of the CSP, CSPD, and smaller agencies in the region to eradicate driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
DRIVE SMART COLORADO is an example of a collective partnership of diverse membership that incorporates all areas of law enforcement. While some might think the mission of state patrol does not typically lead them into community policing, the CSP is a dynamic example of how important their role is, and how they create partnerships with agencies, and become problem solvers with the community.