We are currently awaiting the 2017 finalized roadway accident data for Colorado. According to the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), we know there was an increase in the number of fatalities compared to the 615 in 2016. Early indications suggest a rise in crashes resulting from impaired driving and among those who were not wearing a seatbelt.
Sam Cole, a CDOT spokesman, explained -- although the numbers suggest that all was bad -- there were some positive results this year, such as a reduction in the number of motorcycle rider fatalities. In this “Year in Review,” we will look at vehicle accidents from several angles, including geographic data, the impact of marijuana legalization, distracted driving, and other related information.
Colorado Driving Trends in 2017
There were a number of factors or trends that affect driving and driving patterns throughout 2017. Below is a summary of what some of these trends were.
Colorado Front Range
The Colorado “front range” is the region with the highest volume of roadway fatalities. Walk Ride Colorado defines this region as being the high prairies of Colorado located on the eastern side of the Rocky Mountains. It is considered the state's best-known stretch of mountains which features large variances in altitude. Some of the critical data associated with this area include:
- El Paso County: 67 fatalities
- Adams County: 60 fatalities
- Weld County: 55 fatalities
- Denver County: 44 fatalities
- There were 70 killed in June and 65 in July
- February had the lowest volume of fatalities (30)
Other Critical Contributing Factors in Colorado
- Continual increases in population
- A rise in the number of miles driven & lower fuel prices
- Marijuana legalization leading to more impaired drivers
- Continual increases in distracting tech device usage
Terms such as “impaired driving” or “driving under the influence” traditionally referred to operating while intoxicated by alcohol. The Colorado State Patrol says that currently 17% of DUI arrests in the state are attributed to marijuana usage. A program was recently established in hopes of countering this trend.
CDOT has entered a partnership with Lyft and the Marijuana Industry Group (MIG) in a 320 Movement that seeks to reduce the number of marijuana-impaired drivers. Lyft, the rideshare company, is offering discounted rides for those who redeem special offer codes that have been distributed throughout the state's marijuana dispensaries. The program is actively being promoted through a variety of channels including Facebook and Instagram.
In 2014, there were approximately 59 fatalities attributed to distracted driving, which rose to 68 in 2015. Currently, there are an estimated 40 accidents per day in Colorado caused by distracted drivers. The problem permeates all age groups; however, is most prevalent among younger people between 21 and 34 years of age.
The most commonly cited distraction is the usage of mobile handheld devices. Nationally, people seem to be aware of the dangers of driving while distracted, as 98% of those surveyed acknowledged. Roughly 75% of respondents admitted to being distracted while driving recently.
Colorado's recent Moving Toward Zero Deaths campaign outlines the state's vision for improvements in roadway safety and details the goals they hope to reach. There are a set of actions that should lead to curtailing the large number of traffic-related deaths, which is a part of a broad-reaching Strategic Highway Safety Plan (SHSP). The initial step was to identify and encourage participation among federal, state, and local agencies, organizations and law enforcement. This has evolved into a strong integrated group working together that includes CDOT, the National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA), the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and other strategic partners.
Between 2014 and 2016, there were 9,640 citations for failing to wear a seatbelt. This issue is fundamental in any discussion about roadway accident safety. Such enforcement will continue as they want to increase the usage rate of seatbelts among Colorado motorists from the current rate of 84% to 86% by the end of 2018. Efforts to reduce the number of impaired drivers are underway, funded in part by grants, which seeks to educate and promote overall awareness, increase targeted enforcement and advance the training among law enforcement. Other key goals are to develop better ways of determining whether drivers are under the influence of drugs and to continue to focus on traditional enforcement of motor vehicle laws, such as speeding.
With these goals and targets in mind, may 2018 be a year we all practice safe driving habits that help us all arrive at our destinations without issue. From the Law Firm of Jeremy Rosenthal: Happy New Year.