Traffic fatalities increase for Grand County |

Traffic fatalities increase for Grand County

A graph tracking traffic fatalities in the county from 2007 through 2017. For the most part fatal crashes and deaths have matched up, with the exception of 2012, when one crash killed two individuals. As you can see, last year was the county's deadliest in over a decade, and had the first instances of alcohol related traffic fatalities since 2014.
Sawyer D’Argonne |

Buckle up, Grand County.

New data released from the Colorado Department of Transportation indicates that traffic fatalities have risen 23 percent in Colorado over the last three years, in large part due to human error.

Grand County suffered its most deadly year on the roads in more than a decade. There were five fatal crashes in the county last year, the most since six died in 2007, and a sharp uptick from the single driver killed in 2016. Two of the fatal crashes last year involved impaired drivers, the first alcohol related crash fatalities since 2014.

Over the last 11 years the county has averaged 3.18 fatalities a year on a little more than 3 fatal crashes a year. Most fatal crashes in the county appear to come in the summer and fall. Since 2007 there have been five fatalities in July and August, and four in June, September and November. In that same timeframe March, April and December have all only seen one death.

“Fatal crashes continue to be a tragic ending for hundreds of people in Colorado each year,” said Colonel Matt Packard, chief of the Colorado State Patrol. “Every life matters. They matter to me, my troopers, and the families suffering from these preventable tragedies. We encourage drivers to make good decisions, always drive sober and avoid distractions. Help us save lives this year by buckling up, dropping the distractions, and focusing on driving.”

In 2017 there were 638 traffic fatalities across the state, up from 488 in 2014, the first time the number has eclipsed 600 since 2005.

“We can’t lay the blame for the uptick on Colorado’s population growth,” said Michael Lewis, CDOT executive director. “This comes down to poor choices many people make when driving, from not buckling up to driving impaired or using their phones.”

Colorado ranks 36th in the country in seat belt use, and approximately 16 percent of Coloradoans do not buckle up, according to Lewis. Of the 399 passenger deaths last year, 211 of them were unbelted passengers.

Motorcycle accidents appear to be moving in the opposite direction in the state, with fatalities declining 20 percent from 125 in 2016 to 101 last year. A majority of motorcyclists killed were not wearing helmets.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, about 58 lives could be saved in Colorado annually if 100 percent of passengers and drivers wore seatbelts, and an additional 25 lives in the state could be saved with 100 percent helmet use among motorcyclists.

“Colorado lacks many of the protections that other states have, including primary enforcement of our seat belt law and a hands-free law for using cell phones,” said Lewis. “That certainly does not help as we work to solve the traffic safety crisis in Colorado.”

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