Colorado Traffic Accident Deaths Are on the Rise
New data show an unsettling trend for anyone hitting the road in Colorado: the risk of dying in a traffic accident is increasing.
Traffic fatalities statewide reached the highest total in more than two decades, Denver7 reports in an in-depth analysis of data provided by the Colorado Department of Transportation. Negligent and intoxicated driving is largely to blame for the spike, experts told the news outlet.
Nearly 750 people were killed in collisions on Colorado roads last year. That is up nearly 8 percent from a year earlier and the highest total on record since 2002. It also represents a 57 percent increase over the last decade.
“That’s 750 people that lost their lives,” Col. Matthew C. Packard, chief of the Colorado State Patrol, told Denver7. “These are loved ones, these are friends, these are neighbors, their family members, cousins and aunts and sons and daughters and members of our community.”
There are a number of factors that have contributed to the rise in traffic deaths. Many of them can be boiled down to drivers failing to live up to their responsibilities behind the wheel.
Speeding, drunk driving and distracted driving have all become more common on Colorado roads, according to the report. So has drivers and passengers hitting the road without buckling their seat belts, leaving them significantly more vulnerable to injury and death when collisions happen.
State officials also cited an increase in the number of people moving to Colorado as a contributing factor. The state’s population has been growing rapidly in recent years, which has put more cars on the road and increased the risk of accidents.
The COVID-19 pandemic has played a role, as well. The total number of cars on the road dipped during the pandemic, which led to a decrease in traffic accidents. Accidents and fatalities are on the upswing now that people have started to return to their normal routines.
Impaired Driving Kills
Impaired driving deaths have jumped by 60 percent over the last three years.
The bulk of those crashes are attributed to drinking and driving, a reckless move that slows drivers’ reaction times and dulls their senses to surrounding traffic.
Late last year, for example, an alleged drunk driving accident left one Denver resident dead and another seriously injured. A car struck a light pole after its 19-year-old driver reportedly lost control of the vehicle, killing a backseat passenger and injuring the person in the front passenger seat. He was arrested on suspicion of DUI.
More recently, the brother of Denver Nuggets star Michael Porter Jr. was arrested and charged with DUI and a slew of criminal offenses following a late-night accident near the University of Denver campus. Coban Porter allegedly was speeding and under the influence at the time of the wreck, which killed a 42-year-old Uber driver and seriously injured her 47-year-old passenger.
More than 20,000 people are arrested for DUI across the state annually, CDOT data show.
It is not just alcohol that is leaving drivers impaired. State officials say there is an increase in drivers who are getting behind the wheel while under the influence of other substances. That includes a steady increase in the number of drivers above the legal limit for THC, the active ingredient in cannabis.
“Often drivers are under the influence of one or more drugs, which can increase the level of their impairment greatly,” CDOT Chief Engineer Keith Stafanik told Denver7.
Pedestrian and Motorcycle Accidents Up
The data also show an uptick in fatal accidents involving pedestrians and motorcycle riders. Those collisions hit a peak not seen since 1975, according to Denver7.
More than one-third (36%) of people killed in traffic accidents last year were not inside a vehicle at the time of the crash.
The metro Denver area saw a wave of hit-and-run crashes to start the new year, including several in which pedestrians were injured or killed. At least 10 people were injured and another two were killed in those collisions in the first four weeks of the year, according to news reports.
While many of the collisions are a result of driver error, officials warned that pedestrians are also increasingly to blame.
“We’ve actually seen an increase in pedestrians at fault in these crashes.” Packard, the CSP chief, said.“Whether it’s crossing the road in unlit or otherwise unsafe situations or going against the traffic signals, all of those things are there for your safety, whether you’re behind the wheel or on the soles of your shoes.”
Pedestrians – and bicyclists – need to be more aware of their surroundings and take steps to protect themselves, officials said. They should be sure to crosswalks and designated bike lanes, wear reflective clothing, and avoid distractions while walking or biking.
What Colorado is Doing to Reduce Fatal Traffic Accidents
Colorado transportation officials are said to be taking a number of steps to address the increase in traffic deaths.
Law enforcement agencies are boosting patrols on the roadways and cracking down on reckless driving behavior. Officials are also increasing public education efforts, including campaigns to encourage people to wear their seatbelts and avoid distracted driving.
In addition, transportation officials are working to improve the state’s infrastructure and road design to make it safer for drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists. This includes the construction of more roundabouts, which they say have been shown to reduce accidents, and the installation of more streetlights and other safety features.
Speak with a Denver Car Accident Lawyer
If you or a loved one has been injured in a hit and run or other crash in Colorado, a Denver car accident lawyer at Levine Law can help you take action. Our attorneys combine decades of experience and a strong track record of success in the courtroom and through negotiated settlements.
We are pleased to serve clients throughout Colorado, including in Denver, Colorado Springs, Ft. Collins and Loveland. Call us at 303-333-8000 or contact us online to speak with a Denver car accident lawyer.