Traffic Fatalities Down Nationwide, Up In Colorado And Wyoming

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A recent report by The National Safety Council estimates annual traffic fatalities are down slightly across the country.  But Wyoming and Colorado seem to be bucking that trend.  

Ken Kolosh, who heads up statistical reporting at the National Safety Council, says Colorado has strong impaired and distracted driving laws. "But on the flipside," he says, "there could be improvement with child passenger safety laws as well as seatbelt laws.

Kolosh says weak seatbelt laws are a problem across the mountain west.  

Sam Cole with the Colorado Department of Transportation agrees. Cole points out that in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, and Colorado, police officers can’t pull someone over simply for not wearing a seatbelt.

"In the West," says Cole, "you have this mentality of people not wanting government to tell them what to do. And I think that's been the biggest impediment to getting states to pass primary seatbelt laws."

So why are just Wyoming and Colorado seeing this increase?

Kolosh points out that because mountain west states have fewer people, the statistical percentages here can swing more widely. Still both Kolosh and Cole agree that the mountain west could do more to increase road safety, starting with a seat belt law.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, Yellowstone Public Radio in Montana,  KUER in Salt Lake City and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.