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Why Are Colorado Traffic Fatalities On The Rise?

Colorado has seen the number of deaths in vehicle accidents last year rise to levels not seen since 2008. Motorcyclists were disproportionately affected, and last year saw a record number of motorcyclist deaths in the state. Officials are trying to implement safety measures to curb accidents, and look to increase education within the public. Most troubling of all? 2016 is on pace to be even deadlier than 2015.

Vehicle Deaths By The Numbers

The numbers are taking a disturbing turn - in 2014, there were 488 traffic deaths, which increased 11.4 percent to 545 last year (2015). As of August 29, Colorado had seen 370 motor vehicle deaths. If that pace continues, there will be 555 traffic-related deaths this year. Additionally, motorcycle accident deaths are up almost 11 percent last year.

While those numbers are staggering, an even scarier fact underlies the statistics - the Colorado Department of Transportation says they can't explain what's driving the rise in deaths.

Pinpointing Possible Causes

Although CDOT has said they can't fully account for the upward trend of vehicle fatalities, they have at least offered several hypotheses:

  • Lower gas prices mean more people on the road - a better economy contributes to more people choosing to drive, like commuters and vacationers.
  • In addition, impaired drivers made up nearly a third of fatal crashes last year.
  • One of the biggest contributors, officials say, is lack of seatbelts. Nearly 50 percent of people who died were not wearing a seatbelt, which they deem unacceptable.
  • Accounting for nearly a third of deadly accidents is distracted driving, "an epidemic" according to CDOT. As with education strategy around drunk driving, they hope to also continue to understand how technology is contributing to distracted driving.

Rest Of Nation Also Sees More Vehicle Deaths

Colorado's motor vehicle mortality rate echoes the national trends: motor vehicle deaths are up by 9 percent in 2016, the deadliest year since 2007. Labor Day weekend is a dangerous time for motorists, and if national trends continue, this weekend could be the deadliest holiday weekend since 2008, with an estimate of 438 people killed over three days.

The upward tick in fatalities nationally began in 2014, as it did in Colorado, with no signs of decreasing. Other states that have had significant increases include Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky and North Carolina.

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