Car accidents are a problem that no one wants to deal with, but they happen daily. In 2020, there were a total of 1,593,390 accidents that caused injuries in the US. Another 3,621,691 caused property damage, and over 30,000 ended in fatalities.
That means there were over five million collisions in 2020 alone across the US. Colorado has also seen a growing concern with traffic fatalities. The Colorado Department of Transportation recently released traffic fatality data showing there were 745 traffic-related deaths in Colorado in 2022. That’s the highest number of roadway deaths since 1981.
The total number of traffic fatalities has been rising over the past decade and is now up 57%. On the contrary, thirty years ago, CDOT reported traffic deaths on the decline.
In this article, we discuss the top causes of crashes and some statistics for Colorado and the US. We’ll also discuss the growing issue of impaired driving in Colorado and how the state plans to make changes to combat the deadly trend.
What’s Causing the Dramatic Rise in Colorado Traffic Deaths?
Colorado has seen a 60% increase in impaired driving deaths since 2019. One of the most alarming facts about crash statistics is that the top causes are:
- Drunk driving
- And speeding
Colorado Accident Statistics
Fatal traffic crashes are becoming a problem across the state, and Colorado drivers agree there is a problem. According to an annual survey from earlier in 2023, Coloradans reported that they regularly put themselves and others at risk.
Almost 20% of drivers self-reported driving over the speed limit all the time or most of the time. Additionally, CDOT administered a 2022 Colorado Driver Behavior Survey. In that survey, 10% admitted they don’t stop for pedestrians who aren’t using a crosswalk. That’s 3 percent lower than the previous year, but still, an issue that the city feels should be addressed. Denver city council thinks that statistic calls for a campaign to decriminalize jaywalking.
About 63% of drivers admit to distracted driving – including eating or drinking while driving. And another 28% admit to reading text messages while driving.
7% of drivers report driving while impaired, and another 7% admitted to driving within a few hours of using marijuana.
There are also positive statistics from the DCOT survey:
- 89% report wearing their seatbelt all the time
- Some drivers reported that they are less likely to speed in residential zones or neighborhoods
But there’s one glaring number that the CDOT officials can’t get over. Seven hundred and forty-five. Seven hundred fifty people lost their lives in a motor vehicle collision. Those people were loved ones, neighbors, family members, colleagues, and members of the community.
The trend continues to rise, hitting the highest it’s been since 1981. In the past three decades, Colorado’s fatality rate has been on a decline. However, that started to change in 2012. Since then, traffic fatalities have been steadily increasing.
Breakdown of Colorado Traffic Fatalities in 2022
Here is a count-for-count breakdown according to counties in Colorado:
- El Paso County – 83 traffic fatalities in 2022 (that is the highest number for any county in the state)
- Adams County – 82 traffic deaths
- Denver county – 67 deaths on roadways
- Arapahoe County – 56 fatalities
- Weld County – 53 fatalities
- Jefferson County – 46 fatalities
Colorado officials wanted to understand what was causing the increase and what they needed to change. But they say first, we need to focus on changing Colorado drivers’ behaviors.
Some risky driving behaviors we see more of and that are causing accidents include:
- Aggressive driving
- Reckless driving
- Distracted driving (listening to the radio, using the phone, etc.)
- Driving while impaired
According to the Colorado State Patrol, fatal crashes caused by impaired drivers rose by 7% in 2022. Drunk driving is a leading cause of fatal crashes not just in Colorado but across the entire country. Drivers who are under the influence of alcohol and other substances can potentially cause disastrous collisions.
What’s more, impaired driving is becoming more complex. That’s because drivers get behind the wheel after using more than one substance. For example, drivers who use cannabis and drink alcohol, and then drive have a much higher level of impairment. Overall, traffic fatalities involving impaired drivers have risen by almost 60% since 2019 in Colorado. Drivers who are getting behind the wheel above the legal limit for alcohol and THC seem to be steadily increasing.
It’s not only other drivers who are at risk of traffic fatalities. Pedestrians and motorcyclists are also at risk. Here are some figures to reflect how pedestrians and motorcyclists have been affected:
- In 2022, 36% of people who died in a fatal traffic accident were not inside a passenger vehicle.
- In 2022, motorcycle and pedestrian fatalities reached a record high since 1975
- There has been a very slight increase in pedestrians being at fault for some crashes (for example, crossing the road where there is no crosswalk or where it’s not lit well)
- On a positive note, bicycle deaths in Colorado have been on the decline for the past few years. The peak of bicycle deaths was 22 fatalities in 2018. However, there were only 12 in 2022.
Whether it’s pedestrians, motorcyclists, bicyclists, or drivers, everyone deserves to feel and be safe on the roadways. But sadly, the numbers don’t reflect this. Fatalities are not the only thing on the rise – injuries are also reported every day. CDOT reported an average of five injuries for every traffic fatality reported in Colorado.
Is Colorado Doing Anything to Reverse the Traffic Fatality Trend?
Yes. Colorado has awarded over $63 million to over 200 community programs for improved safety for drivers, pedestrians, and bicyclists. Colorado’s safety campaigns focus on four key areas:
- Improving roadways
- Educating drivers
- Raising awareness for all people
- And post-crash care
The human factors involved with navigating roads involve improving design and infrastructure to mitigate human error while driving. One example is to develop roundabouts and move away from traditional four-way intersections.
Furthermore, cable rails and improved striping could be helpful in keeping vehicles on the road. One of the most important parts of change is making roads safer for bicyclists and pedestrians. In that sense, engineering improvements can make a tremendous difference for the better.
CDOT also says improving driver safety is crucial, and they want to focus on bringing awareness to create a safer driving culture in Colorado. One example is a safety awareness campaign recently launched in El Paso County. The campaign is designed to target youth drivers and reduce risky driving behaviors.
Other efforts from CDOT to increase safety on the roadways include:
- An audiobook version of the state driver handbook
- Providing more resources to support new drivers and encourage them to learn the rules of the road
- Provide resources to aid families with tough conversations that need to be had with senior family members
How You Can Help Combat Traffic Fatalities in Colorado
It’s okay to report a dangerous driver on the road. All colorado motorists can dial *CSP or *277 to report an aggressive or dangerous driver.
The Colorado State Patrol Star CSP program website reports that over 230,000 Coloradans have reported aggressive or dangerous drivers.
While it can be challenging logistically to have a trooper for every single call, calls are often shared with other law enforcement agencies. With shared radios, deputies and police can help across different jurisdictions.
CPS advises drivers never to make contact and keep their distance from aggressive drivers. It’s best to stay out of the way to avoid escalating the situation. Stay calm and have the following details ready when you call the hotline:
- vehicle description
- license plate information
- Driver description
- What type of aggressive behavior that you witnessed
If you are in a life-threatening situation, it’s better to call 911.
NHTSA Crash Reports for the US and Colorado
Remember, traffic fatalities are not just a problem in Colorado. They are a national concern and on the rise in the US too.
According to estimates from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates, 9,560 people died in traffic fatalities in the first quarter of 2022. That’s a 7% nationwide increase from the first quarter of 2021 (with only 8,935 deaths).
In Colorado, NHTSA’s first-quarter estimates reflect 137 deaths in 2022, which is an 11.4% increase from 2021’s 123 deaths. Passenger vehicle occupants experienced the highest rise in fatalities, followed by occupants of trucks (including SUVs, pickup trucks, and vans).
NHTSA reports the reason for this increasing trend in fatalities across the country is due to:
- Distracted driving
Nationwide Record for Traffic Deaths in 2021
US traffic deaths reached a 16-year record high number in 2021. A CNBC report showed that traffic fatalities in the US soared in 2021, with 43,510 fatalities on the roads. That’s an 8 percent increase from 2019 and the highest number since 2005.
Americans drove a record number of miles in 2021 – 3.35 trillion miles – which is a 35% increase from 2021. While traffic fatalities momentarily dropped due to the pandemic setting travel restrictions, they rebounded in 2021 and continue to rise.
Contact a Denver Car Accident Lawyer Today
No matter where you live, traffic accidents can happen to almost anyone. The results can be taxing on accident victims and their families. With injuries, medical bills, missed work, car damage, and more, accident victims often experience a great deal of loss from motor vehicle collisions.
The statistics clearly show that traffic fatalities are on the rise, and accident injuries happen every day. That means it could happen to you if it hasn’t already.
Accident victims do not need to go alone. Our legal team has extensive experience and resources to build a winning case and get you a fair outcome.
You have nothing to lose since we offer a free initial case review, so contact us today.