Seatbelt laws didn’t exist the last time Colorado saw this many roadway deaths

Colorado’s highways and roads are the deadliest they’ve been since 1981
Colorado State Patrol patch.
Colorado State Patrol patch.(KKCO)
Published: Jan. 24, 2023 at 12:21 PM MST
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STATEWIDE, Colo. (KKCO) - The Colorado State Patrol says that close to 750 Coloradans were killed in traffic fatalities last year, making 2022 the worst year for roadway deaths since 1981. The last time Colorado saw so many deaths on the road was long before seat belt laws were passed.

“A lot of people say the population growth is to blame. That is not true, we haven’t seen a 50 percent [population] increase in 10 years in Colorado, but we have seen a 50 percent increase in fatal crashes in the state,” says CDOT Safety Communications Manager Sam Cole.

CDOT says that more people are driving impaired, as well as driving carelessly, speeding and not paying attention to the road. The state saw a six percent increase in crash deaths where a driver as either drunk or drugged.

Damaged semi-trucks sit on the snowy surface of I-70 after a crash on Jan. 17, 2023.
Damaged semi-trucks sit on the snowy surface of I-70 after a crash on Jan. 17, 2023.(Colorado Department of Transportation)

“A lot of high speed — a lot of just downright dangerous and reckless behavior behind the wheels of cars,” said CSP Colonel Matthew Packard.

In response to this, the CSP says that it will be starting a new safety plan between it and its partners with the hopes of curbing fatalities on Colorado roadways. The Advancing Transportation Safety Program will include four key areas of focus: safe drivers, safe people, safe roads, and post-crash care.

“We’re trying to increase the awareness programs in Colorado so drivers understand the consequences of driving dangerously,” said Cole.

However, the solution to the problem is going to require some serious conversations about roadway design, says CU Denver Professor and Traffic Engineer Wes Marshall. “Really, designing these roads in a way where it’s hard or almost unthinkable to drive a car at high speeds is a longer term type of investment that would lead to better road safety,” says Marshall.

Experts say that it's time to have a serious conversation about road design.

CDOT also says that it’s working on safer designs and better ways to set speed limits, as well as investing in safer infrastructure for people walking and cycling, and a statewide traffic safety plan.