DENVER — Statewide traffic fatality data released Monday by the Colorado Department of Transportation showed a concerning trend on Colorado’s roads.
Statistics reveal that there were 745 fatalities in 2022, the highest number of road fatalities since 1981.
In fact, the total number of road fatalities per year has been on the rise for the past 10 years, up 57%. This is a reversal from the previous 30 years which showed deaths were down, according to CDOT.
Impaired driving deaths have also risen dramatically, with a 60% increase since 2019.
In this in-depth Denver7 360 report, we’ll break down what’s changed and show you where the most deaths occurred in Colorado last year.
Also in this report:
- What is behind the increase in deaths
- What the state is doing to reverse the deadly trend
- Growing concerns about impaired driving, including THC use.
- How a Colorado mom made a difference after losing her son
- How to report dangerous drivers
A statewide fatal traffic accident problem
Colorado drivers seem to agree there is a problem. In an annual survey released early last year, drivers across the state admitted to behaviors that put themselves and others at risk.
19% said they exceeded the speed limit most or all of the time. And according to CDOT’s 2022 Colorado Driver Behavior Survey, 10% said they never stopped for pedestrians not using a crosswalk.
While that’s a 3% drop from the previous year, it’s a statistic to consider as the Denver City Council debates decriminalizing jaywalking.
In terms of distracted driving, 63% of drivers reported eating or drinking while driving and 28% reading text messages while driving, according to the CDOT survey.
And when it comes to impaired driving, 7% of drivers admitted to driving within two hours of using cannabis.
On a positive note, 89% said they fastened their seat belts all the time and drivers admitted to being less likely to speed on neighborhood roads.
But there are a number of culprits highlighted in this week’s update.
“As we sit here today the number is 745, around 745. It’s approaching 750. As the data continues to pour in. 750 people lost their lives. They are loved ones, they are friends, they are neighbors, family members, cousins and aunts, sons and daughters, and members of our community. said Col. Matthew C. Packard, chief of the Colorado State Patrol.
745 Colorado road deaths is the highest since 1981. And the trend is in the wrong direction.
The fatal accident rate had been falling for three decades, but that began to change in 2012, rising steadily each year.
A deadly trend
In Colorado, El Paso County recorded 83 traffic fatalities in 2022, the highest for any county in the state. Adams County followed with 82 and Denver County had 67 traffic fatalities.
- 56 in Arapahoe County
- 53 in Weld County
- 46 in Jefferson County
To understand what’s behind the increases and what needs to change, state officials say the first step is to change the behaviors of Colorado drivers.
“We are seeing more aggressive driving. We see people taking more risks driving at higher speeds driving more recklessly. said Chief Packard.
“All you have to do is listen to the radio, because our soldiers are working on the road, you can hear these reports of unsafe aggressive high-speed driving, it’s happening all over the state.”
And while distracted and aggressive driving continues to be a problem, CSP chief Packard pointed to an increase in the number of drivers driving while impaired.
“We talk a lot about the causal factors that drive them. But I’ll tell you the one that keeps baffling my mind is the headlines this weekend about impaired drivers causing fatal crashes. said Packard.
The Colorado State Patrol found a 7% increase in impaired driving as a cause of fatal crashes in 2022, compared to the previous year.
Driving under the influence of alcohol remains one of the main causes of fatal accidents, but there is an increase in the number of drivers who get behind the wheel while under other substances.
“Impaired driving is becoming more and more complicated. Often drivers are under the influence of one or more drugs, which can significantly increase their level of impairment. Fatal crashes involving a suspected impaired driver have increased nearly 60% since 2019,” said Keith Stafanik, CDOT Chief Engineer.
He noted that there was a steady increase in the number of drivers over the legal THC limit.
A mother whose son was killed by a suspected impaired driver pledges to make a difference on Colorado’s roads
Fatal accidents involving pedestrians and motorcycles are also on the rise. In 2022, 36% of people killed in traffic fatalities were not inside a vehicle. Motorcycle and pedestrian fatalities were the highest since 1975.
“We’ve actually seen an increase in the number of at-fault pedestrians in these crashes.” Packard said. “Whether it’s crossing the road and getting into unlit or dangerous situations or going against traffic lights, all of those things are there for your safety, whether you’re driving or on the sole of your shoes.”
CDOT statistics show that bicycle fatalities in Colorado have declined in recent years after peaking at 22 fatalities in 2018. In 2022, there were 12 fatalities.
Whether it’s vehicles, pedestrians or motorcycles, it’s not just fatal accidents that are on the rise. CDOT also reported that there were 5 serious injuries for every reported death.
What are we doing to reverse the trend?
The state focuses on safety in four different key areas: roads, drivers, people and after-crash care.
When it comes to the human factors involved in navigating the roads, engineers seek to design infrastructure to account for the mistakes people typically make while driving.
Keith Stefanik, CDOT’s chief engineer, said one example is the development of roundabouts instead of traditional four-way intersections.
“Increased use of cable rail rumble strips to keep vehicles on the road, improved strips and more. Some of the most important works are the protection of pedestrians and cyclists. Technical improvements can go a long way. says Stefanik.
He said CDOT has awarded $63 million to more than 200 community programs to improve pedestrian and cyclist safety in Colorado.
When it comes to improving driver safety, CDOT focuses on raising awareness to create a safer driving culture on the roads. Stefanik pointed to an awareness campaign launched last week in El Paso County designed to target young drivers who she says are prone to speeding and risky driving behavior.
CDOT is also working on other efforts such as releasing an audio version of the state driver’s manual and providing more resources to help new drivers learn the rules of the road. For families concerned about older drivers, CDOT will provide new resources to help have difficult conversations.
How to report dangerous drivers
Since 1998, Colorado motorists can dial *CSP or *277 to report aggressive or dangerous driving. The Colorado State Patrol Star CSP program has received more than 230,000 reports of aggressive driving, according to its website.
CSP said that logistically it can be difficult to have a soldier in position in the right place when a call comes in, but calls are received and reports are tracked and often shared with other enforcement agencies. of the law.
“And often we listen to each other’s radio. So it might not even be a soldier making that contact, it might be a deputy or a policeman. Or it could be related to some other long-standing thing that’s been going on with someone’s misconduct in multiple jurisdictions. said Chief Packard.
The CPS advises never to try to make contact with an aggressive driver and to stay away to avoid escalating the situation. When calling the hotline, the vehicle description, license plate information, driver description, and observed aggressive behavior are helpful.
If it is a life-threatening situation, call 911.
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