Traffic Deaths in Colorado Decreased in 2023, But Pedestrians and Bicyclists Remain at Risk

Colorado saw a 6% decrease in traffic fatalities in 2023 compared to 2022, marking the first decline since 2019, according to the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT). However, the state also recorded a record-high number of pedestrian and bicyclist deaths, raising concerns about the safety of vulnerable road users.

CDOT Reports Progress in Reducing Traffic Deaths

CDOT released preliminary data showing that 716 people died on Colorado roadways in 2023, down from 764 in 2022. This is the first time since 2019 that the state has seen a reduction in traffic fatalities, which had been increasing steadily for a decade.

CDOT attributed the progress to several factors, including increased enforcement, education, and engineering efforts, as well as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which reduced traffic volumes and congestion in 2023.

CDOT emphasized that even one life lost is too many and reaffirmed its commitment to achieving zero deaths and serious injuries on the state’s roads.

Pedestrians and Bicyclists Face Higher Risks

Despite the overall improvement, CDOT data also revealed a significant increase in deaths among pedestrians and bicyclists in 2023. A total of 153 pedestrians and cyclists lost their lives, marking an 18% increase over the previous year. These vulnerable road users accounted for 21% of all traffic deaths.

CDOT spokesman Sam Cole said that the spike in pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities has a lot to do with the variety of roadway users and the changing mobility patterns in the state.

Pedestrians and Bicyclists Remain at Risk

“We see more people walking, biking, and riding e-bikes and scooters. This has a lot to do with the deaths on roads. That’s where the spikes have been the largest — with those vulnerable roadway users,” Cole said.

CDOT, along with other state and local agencies, has been implementing various initiatives to improve the safety and accessibility of pedestrians and bicyclists, such as building more sidewalks, bike lanes, and crosswalks, installing flashing beacons and signals, and launching awareness campaigns.

Other Factors Contributing to Traffic Fatalities

CDOT data also showed that some of the common factors contributing to traffic fatalities in 2023 were impaired driving, seat belt non-use, distracted driving, and speeding.

  • Impaired driving was involved in 227 deaths, a decrease of 21% over 2022. CDOT said that this was partly due to the reduced availability of alcohol and cannabis during the pandemic, as well as the increased use of ride-hailing and delivery services.
  • Seat belt non-use was involved in 216 deaths, a decrease of 6% over 2022. CDOT said that 12% of people did not buckle up in 2023, which is still higher than the national average of 10%. CDOT conducted several seat belt enforcement campaigns throughout the year to encourage compliance.
  • Distracted driving was involved in an estimated 60 deaths, although the final data is not yet available. CDOT said that drivers gazing at smartphones and vehicle touchscreen systems are a major source of distraction, especially among young drivers. CDOT launched a new campaign called “Keep Your Eyes on the Road” to educate drivers about the dangers of distracted driving.
  • Speeding was involved in 16% of all fatal crashes in 2023, which is consistent with previous years. CDOT said that speeding is a pervasive problem that is difficult to address, especially on rural roads where enforcement is limited. CDOT installed more speed feedback signs and radar trailers to remind drivers to slow down.

The Worst Month and Counties for Traffic Deaths

CDOT data also revealed that July 2023 was the worst month on record for traffic deaths in the state, with 90 people killed in a single month. CDOT said that this was likely due to the increased travel and activity during the summer months, as well as the relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions.

The counties with the highest numbers of traffic fatalities in 2023 were:

  • El Paso – 78
  • Denver – 73
  • Arapahoe – 68
  • Adams – 62
  • Weld – 55
  • Jefferson – 48
  • Larimer – 44
  • Pueblo – 40
  • Boulder – 28
  • Douglas – 23

The cities with the highest numbers of traffic fatalities in 2023 were:

  • Denver – 73
  • Aurora – 63
  • Colorado Springs – 48
  • Pueblo – 23
  • Lakewood – 21

CDOT, in collaboration with the Colorado State Patrol, the Division of Motor Vehicles, and other partners, is planning to continue its efforts to reduce traffic deaths and injuries in 2024 and beyond. CDOT said that it will focus on the most critical areas and behaviors, as well as leverage new technologies and data to enhance its strategies.

“We are pleased to see the progress we’ve made this past year in reducing fatalities on our roadways and we want more drivers to jump on board with making daily positive choices to move Colorado into the forefront of being one of the safest states to travel,” said Col. Matthew C. Packard, chief of the Colorado State Patrol.

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