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Colorado Roads Becoming More Dangerous


I just became aware of a disturbing statistic, thanks to the reporting of Denver7 news: teen driver deaths are up over 2022, marking a sad end to summer and a notoriously dangerous period for driving. In 2022, 55 teen drivers died behind the wheel, but according to the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), we are already ahead of that number as we enter September 2023.

This isn’t an unusual trend for Coloradans of all age groups. Car accidents in Colorado are fairly common, with over 120,000 car crashes happening every year. But total accident numbers do not tell the entire story. The seriousness of accidents is also increasing, with a 57% increase in traffic fatalities from a decade ago and 754 lives lost overall in 2022, according to CDOT, the most since 1981.

Here are some other sobering (hopefully literally, in some cases) statistics from CDOT’s report earlier this year:

  • For every fatality, there are five serious injuries caused by accidents on Colorado’s roads.
  • 36% of people killed in 2022 were not inside of a vehicle. This includes pedestrians, motorcyclists, and bicyclists.
  • Speaking of those groups, the number of motorcyclist and pedestrian deaths in 2022 was the most on record since 1975.
  • Impaired driving played a big role: impaired driving-related deaths were up 6% from 2021, but since 2019, those deaths have risen by almost 60%!
  • Alcohol is the most common cause for impairment, but marijuana/THC is also a problem, with drivers testing positive for THC above the legal limit increasing from 50 in 2020 to 79 in 2021. And mixing those is fatal: 25% of impaired drivers in fatal crashes had more than one substance in their blood.
  • Counties with the highest number of fatalities were El Paso (83) Adams (82), Denver (67), Arapahoe (56), Weld (53), Jefferson (46) and Pueblo (40).
  • Seat belt use is only at 87%, which is lower than the national average of 90%.

What gives?

A lot. According to CDOT’s 2022 Driving Behavior Survey, out of 866 Colorado residents who responded, a surprising number exhibited risky driving behaviors, such as distracted driving, impaired driving, or speeding.

When you are next driving your car, truck, or motorcycle, or you are next walking or bicycling near a road, consider the percentage of drivers near you who are:

  • Driving over the speed limit most or all of the time (19%)
  • Rarely or never stopping for pedestrians who are not in a crosswalk (10%)
  • Consuming food or beverages while driving (23%)
  • Selecting radio stations or entertainment by hand while driving (27%)
  • Reading text messages while driving (28%)
  • Driving within two hours of consuming alcohol (21%)
  • Driving within two hours of consuming cannabis (7%)

What about road rage?

 Aggressive driving is also a significant issue. Have you experience a road rage incident recently or feel like it’s more common in Colorado? It’s not just you. According to a recent Forbes Advisor article, in 2022, 413 people were injured across the country in road rage shootings, a 135% increase from 2018. Colorado ranks 15th on their list of states with the “most confrontational drivers,” with 15.5% of drivers saying that another driver has exited their vehicle to yell or fight with them, and 14.5% of drivers experiencing road rage “very frequently.” While we’re not in the top 10, we’re certainly not ranked among the most “polite” states for driving.

This is a big problem for people who are injured by aggressive drivers, since most insurance policies have language that excludes road rage from coverage. In simple terms: insurance does not typically insure against intentional acts, only accidental ones. If both parties are engaging in road rage or even if their passengers get involved and get injured, coverage will typically not apply, as was seen in this 2018 incident put before the Colorado Court of Appeals.

If you are a victim of road rage, you should immediately call the police at *CSP (*277). If you have been injured by someone during a road rage incident, you can sue, and both criminal and civil cases may come into play. These cases are complicated to navigate, especially on your own, and I urge you to reach out to a Colorado personal injury attorney like me for advice.

Be prepared

 While CDOT and the State of Colorado are making substantial investments in infrastructure improvements and education programs, it’s on all of us as drivers, motorcyclists, bicyclists, and pedestrians to use our common sense and to be as safe as we can while traveling from place to place.

Sometimes, that isn’t enough, and we get hurt due to no fault of our own. Experiencing an accident can be scary and disorienting. It’s important to have an after-accident plan to get through the event with your rights preserved. Start your plan by reviewing my blog, What to Do After a Car Accident.

 If you have been hurt because of another person’s negligence on the road, you are not alone, and we can navigate your journey to recovery together. Consultations are free, and there is no obligation to do anything other than talk about your options. Call 303-339-8846. You can also schedule your free consultation with me at my office, at your home, or on Zoom/Facetime/Webex by clicking here.