Colorado Road Fatalities Went Up Again In 2017: 630 People Died

<p>(Photo courtesy of CDOT)</p>
<p>Traffic on I-70 through Denver.</p>
Traffic on I-70
Traffic on I-70 through Denver.

Updated 5:15 p.m. -- At least 63o people died on Colorado’s roads last year, almost 30 more deaths than in 2016, according to new data from the Colorado Department of Transportation.

The biggest jump in fatalities last year involved people driving while impaired, and those not using their seatbelts, said CDOT spokesman Sam Cole. Those and other risky behaviors are pushing up the highway death toll after a long stretch from 2004 to 2014 where the state had fewer fatal accidents.

“Since then it’s been spiking,” Coles said. “It’s a huge concern.”

Careless and distracted drivers are a big part of the problem, he added. “It boils down to risky behaviors on our roadways every day."

Colorado ranks 36th in the country in seat belt use, according to a CDOT press release. Efforts to strengthen Colorado’s seatbelt law and require hands-free cell phone use have both failed in the state Legislature in recent years.

Some transportation advocates disagree with CDOT’s characterization, including news and commentary website StreetsBlog Denver.

What’s needed from CDOT in Denver are narrower streets, thinner lanes, more & better crosswalks, curb extensions, and turn bans on the urban roads they control, like Federal Blvd, so drivers can’t speed and pedestrians have shorter crossings.

These things can be done relatively simply and inexpensively, but CDOT has to lead the way. Instead the department wants to widen roads and highways throughout the city and state, and the press conference will continue next year.

Editor's note: CDOT sent a correction to its own numbers after this story was first published: "In 2017 there were 630 traffic fatalities in Colorado." We've updated the story with the correct information.