Here’s a disturbing fact: even as auto technology becomes safer and more reliable, fatal accidents on Colorado roads are up 11% in the last two years.
In 2017 alone 616 people lost their lives in Colorado car accidents. Despite ongoing efforts by the state Department of Transportation and State Patrol, fatalities have risen for the second straight year. On top of that, New Year’s Eve, one of the most dangerous nights of the year, is right around the corner.
Denver, unsurprisingly, had the highest number of deaths at 44 fatalities in 2017. However, Colorado Department of Transportation Spokesman Sam Cole told Fox 31 that officers know exactly what causes most fatal car accidents.
“We know fatalities are related to three main things: Speed, seat belt and if they are driving, impaired or not,” Cole said.
Every year more than 3 million people are injured in an estimated 6 million car accidents, and fatal car accidents are especially likely to involve distracted or otherwise impaired drivers.
However, while someone is still injured in a drunk driving crash every two minutes in the United States, overall the number of fatal drunk driving accidents has decreased steadily in recent decades.
So what’s causing the rise in traffic deaths in 2017? Experts point to distracted driving, among other factors.
A new survey conducted by Harris Poll, and commissioned by Property Casualty Insurers, found that U.S. adults are well aware of the dangers of distracted driving. Fully 92% of survey respondents said that distracted driving was the biggest factor in rising car accident rates.
However, distracted driving isn’t the only problem. The rise in fatal Colorado accidents mirrors the national trend; national driving deaths have also ticked upward for two straight years. In addition to distracted driving, the aging national population could also be to blame. More seniors are behind the wheel than ever before.
More than two million seniors are treated for fall injuries at emergency rooms every year, and the most common causes are unsteadiness and dizziness. When these symptoms occur while a senior is driving, the results can be just as disastrous as a drunk driving accident. With the senior population set to reach record levels in the decades to come, traffic fatalities could continue to rise.
On top of that, even seniors aren’t immune to the temptation to text and drive.
The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that “As older adults embrace technology, distracted driving — in particular, using cell phones behind the wheel — is prevalent among them as well.”
In fact, a survey by AAA found that nearly 60% of drivers over the age of 65 have used cellphones while driving a vehicle.
In Colorado, there are two additional factors contributing to the rise in roadway deaths. This year there was a 14% increase in the number of accident victims who were not wearing seatbelts; there was also a 20% increase in the number of drunk or drugged drivers who killed either themselves, a passenger, or another driver.