CDOT to install safety device at fatal-accident area | AspenTimes.com

CDOT to install safety device at fatal-accident area

Andre Salvail
The Aspen Times

Meleyna Kistner

In a response to the fatal Highway 133 accident south of Carbondale that caused the death of college student Meleyna Kistner on Aug. 23, the Colorado Department of Transportation has decided to install rumble strips along the center line of the road.

Rumble strips, also known as "sleeper lines," are an enhanced road-safety feature to alert inattentive drivers of potential danger. The grooved pavement causes a vehicle to vibrate and rumble, possibly waking up a driver who may be crossing the center line into the opposite lane. Rumble strips also can be found on a road's shoulder.

A resurfacing, from mile marker 50 to mile marker 64.4 — from Redstone to Carbondale — is scheduled to begin in the spring and last through the fall, department spokeswoman Tracy Trulove said Tuesday. The rumble strips had been planned for some of the sections of the project but not mile marker 55, where the accident occurred.

"It has been extended to include the mile marker where that accident occurred," Trulove said, adding that the Federal Highway Administration asked the state Transportation Department to re-examine the scope of the project.

"That section (of highway) wasn't originally included in the scope," she said.

Kistner's death was the third fatality along Highway 133 between Carbondale and McClure Pass since 2009, according to CDOT. Fatalities in 2009 and 2013 involved impaired drivers, Trulove said. The woman who was cited for crossing the center line in the August accident that caused Kistner's death, Christine Tinner, of Basalt, was not tested by Colorado State Patrol for driving under the influence after the accident. Consequently, she does not face charges related to impaired driving.

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Tinner, 47, was driving almost 65 mph in a 50-mph zone at the time of the accident, according to formal charges filed by the 9th Judicial District Attorney's Office. Also at the time of the accident, she was in illegal possession of a Schedule 4 drug, Lorazepam, officials said.

In addition to speeding, a traffic violation, and drug possession, a misdemeanor, she faces three other charges: careless driving causing death and careless driving causing injury, both misdemeanors, and improper lane usage, also a traffic offense.

Colorado Division of Motor Vehicles records show that Tinner has had three convictions for speeding between 10 and 19 miles over the limit between October 2011 and April.

Kistner was a 21-year-old student who was on pace to receive her undergraduate engineering degree at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute, Indiana, in the spring. Tinner's vehicle crossed the center line at about 9 p.m. on Aug. 23 and rammed into the car Kistner was driving.

Kistner's boyfriend, Daniel Thul, 21, was in the passenger's seat. He suffered multiple injuries and had to postpone his final semester of college, also at Rose-Hulman.

Kistner was a resident of Naperville, Illinois, while Thul is a native of Bloomington, Illinois. They were on the third day of a Western road trip bound for Oregon, where Thul wanted to scout out a community where he had potentially lined up a job.

Kistner's mother, Ruth Carlson, of Hawthorn Woods, Illinois, said she phoned CDOT officials a few weeks ago and asked why the section of highway where her daughter was killed did not have rumble strips.

"Statistics indicate that there is a reduction of fatalities on roads where rumble strips have been added," she said. "All states should really take a look at the types of roads — rural highways, two lanes, not a lot of visibility — where they are really needed."

Carlson said that with the addition of rumble strips on the highway, perhaps something positive can result from the tragedy.

"All I really wanted out of this were some improvements," she said. "I'm just hoping that other parents won't have to go through the tragedy that we have."

andre@aspentimes.com

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