Colorado saw highest number of traffic deaths since 1981 last year

Colorado recorded the highest level of car-related fatalities since 1981 last year, and the state’s transportation department is introducing a new program aimed at lowering traffic deaths.

According to the Colorado Department of Transportation, an estimated 745 people died in traffic crashes statewide in 2022 — a 57% increase in the past 10 years.

Colorado State Patrol Chief Matthew Packard said at a Monday news conference that there was a 7% increase in impaired driving fatalities from 2021 to 2022, and that crashes involving cannabis increased 51%.

Additionally, 36% of traffic fatalities involved people who were not in a vehicle, such as pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcyclists. That percentage is the highest on record since 1975, according to a CDOT news release.

Also at the Monday news conference, CDOT Deputy Chief Engineer Keith Stefanik introduced the agency’s new Advancing Transportation Safety Program, aimed at reducing traffic fatalities. He broke the program down into four separate components.

The first component is safe roads, focusing on road design improvements. This section of the program has goals such as building more roundabouts instead of four-way intersections and increasing the use of cable rails and rumble strips to keep vehicles on the road.

The second is safe drivers, “which addresses all the reckless behaviors that lead to crashes,” Stefanik said, including speeding, aggressive driving and seatbelt wearing.

The third component is safe people, focusing on pedestrian safety. “Some of the most important work is protecting pedestrians and bicyclists,” Stefanik said.

And the fourth component is post-crash care, focusing on emergency response and increasing the chances of surviving a crash.

“Although the data paints a pretty dismal picture of what is happening, I have great confidence we can reverse the trend of traffic deaths on Colorado roads,” Stefanik said.

Packard said that with the large number of deaths in 2022, it is impossible to think of a community that hasn’t been affected.

“These are loved ones, these are friends, these are neighbors. They’re family members and members of our community,” he said.

According to the news release, CDOT and CSP will collaborate with state agencies, local law enforcement, community groups and municipalities to work on the issue.

“Sometimes we forget that each time we get behind the wheel, we do have the lives of other people in our hands,” said Electra Bustle, the director of the Department of Revenue and Division of Motor Vehicles, at the news conference. “There are so many things out there that distract us, we need to focus on the fact that we really are behind the wheel of something that can affect not only our lives but many other people’s lives.”

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