This first segment of our Crash Trends Series will analyze several common causes of roadway crashes. These include inattentiveness, excessive speed, driving under the influence, lane violations, and failing to yield. These five factors cause approximately 70% of accident injuries or fatalities. The Colorado State Patrol (CSP) is the lone statewide agency responsible for enforcement of traffic laws. The CSP responds to about 30% of all accidents in Colorado and investigates approximately 70% of those with a fatality. Properly identifying causal factors for crashes is critical in overall efforts to reduce injuries, deaths, and property damage.
Primary Topics: Causal Factors in Colorado Vehicle Accidents
- Inattentive driving: The Denver Post classifies distracted driving as an “epidemic”. This problem has emerged recently with the prevalence and virtual “obsession” with mobile devices. Vehicle manufacturers are increasingly adding new electronic equipment to vehicles, many geared toward safety; however, many are potentially distracting.
- Speeding: This more traditional problem largely results from the often frantic pace of daily life or those who are distracted.
- Driving while intoxicated: Drunk driving and drugged driving are major causes of injuries and deaths despite being the target of legislatures and law enforcement for the past 30 years.
- Lane violations: A common factor in vehicle collisions that stems from drivers who are driving aggressively or those behaving negligently when changing lanes or failing to remain within their lane.
- Failing to yield: Drivers too frequently do not adhere to the proper right-of-way rules. Actions such as failing to yield continue to be a core cause of collisions.
Traffic fatalities are a devastating aspect of accidents and have tremendous economic consequences, may devastate families, and create burdens for our judicial system. The National Safety Council (NSC) says the typical financial loss is $1.2 million for each fatality. Colorado had 546 fatalities in 2015, an astounding 12% increase over 2014.
Current Colorado Programs & Initiatives to Prevent Crashes
Attitudinal Dynamics of Driving
The NSC created Attitudinal Dynamics of Driving (ADoD) as a defensive driving course administered by the Colorado State Patrol Foundation. ADoD is taught by law enforcement and available for the advancement of defensive driving skills or as a remedial program for traffic violators. Topics include identifying risk factors, potentially unsafe driving conditions, and taking responsibility for their actions.
Alive at 25
This National Safety Council course is for drivers between 15 and 24 years of age. The curriculum includes driving defensively and the dangers of driving while intoxicated. Currently, traffic accidents are the leading cause of death among teenagers. First-year licensed drivers have a 1 in 5 chance of being involved in a crash.
The Heat Is On
The Colorado State Patrol's (CSP) program, "The Heat Is On", generally targets holidays when more intoxicated drivers are usually on the roadways. It encourages designating a sober driver and considering alternative forms of transportation. The CSP partners with local enforcement agencies to heighten efforts in apprehending intoxicated drivers.
With the recent legalization of marijuana in Colorado, operating under the influence of drugs has been in the spotlight. The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) has employed the slogan "Drive high, Ge a DUI". Drivers may be charged with DUI if their system contains five nanograms of active tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)—a marijuana component—per milliliter of whole blood. The program focuses on three simple facts:
- It is illegal to drive high;
- It is dangerous to drive high; and
- The best course of action is to plan ahead for sober transportation.
Click It or Ticket
The CSP is the local entity representing the national “Click It or Ticket” program that seeks to reduce preventable injuries and deaths from not wearing seat belts. The estimated compliance rate among Colorado drivers is 85%, up from 72% in 2002. The scope of the initiative was recently expanded to encompass child passenger safety including car seats and other child restraint systems.
Construction Zone Safety
Colorado is in the process of significantly expanding its roadway infrastructure due to traffic congestion and the projected population growth, thus construction will be widespread in the coming years. CDOT's“Cone Zone” initiative involves lower speed limits, increased police presence, and stiffer penalties for violations. In the U.S., seven vehicle occupants and one highway worker are killed each week.