Colorado Road Safety (Stats, Facts, and Tips)
Despite a significant decrease in vehicle miles traveled during the COVID-19 pandemic, 38,824 traffic fatalities occurred in the U.S. in 2020—the highest number since 2007. The following year didn’t show any improvement in vehicle safety. The National Highway Traffic Administration’s projected 2021 statistics show that an estimated 42,915 people died in motor vehicle crashes, a 10.5% increase from 2020.
Traffic data can help us understand why crash fatalities are increasing and what drivers can do to keep themselves and their families safe. This article will focus specifically on Colorado road safety facts and tips so you can better understand how to safely navigate the roads.
Colorado Road Safety Statistics
The following information comes from the Colorado Department of Transportation.
Number of Car Accidents
Colorado saw 119,000 automobile crashes or more for five straight years from 2015 to 2019 before a steep decrease in 2020. Here is the number of crashes by year over the past five years:
- 2017: 119,104
- 2018: 122,356
- 2019: 121,402
- 2020: 86,791
- 2021: 91,901
- 2022: 40,666 (as of July)
Serious Injury Accidents
After more than 2,800 crashes with suspected severe injury in 2021, Colorado has seen a slight improvement in the first half of 2022. Below is the number of severe injury crashes for each month.
- January: 148
- February: 162
- March: 178
- April: 214
- May: 211
- June: 186
1,099 serious injury accidents have occurred this year, while 1,284 similar accidents occurred through June of last year.
Most serious injury accidents (317 crashes) involved front-to-side contact as the first harmful event. The second and third most common first harmful events were front-to-rear contact (139) and overturning/rollover (129).
The 2020-2023 Strategic Transportation Safety Plan includes a performance target of reducing fatalities by 15% from 2020 to 2023. There were 499 fatal crashes in 2020 and 549 in 2021.
- 199 fatal crashes have occurred in 2022, resulting in 214 fatalities.
- No non-motorist fatalities have occurred.
- Denver County has seen the most severe crashes in Colorado this year, with 208 suspected serious injury accidents and 24 fatal accidents.
- Front-to-side contact (40 crashes), front-to-front (36), and pedestrian contact (35) were the top first harmful events in fatal accidents.
Below is the number of fatal crashes for each month in 2022.
- January: 29
- February: 29
- March: 39
- April: 36
- May: 38
- June: 25
196 fatal crashes took place in the first 6 months of this year, compared to 457 from January to June of last year.
Colorado Road Safety Facts and Tips
Knowing how to drive in certain conditions can help you protect yourself and your family. Though we specifically focused on data gathered in Colorado, you can apply many of the following tips to driving in any state.
Seat Belt Usage
A 2021 seat belt usage study in Colorado showed the percentage of seat belt usage among five vehicle categories: vans, trucks, cars, SUVs, and commercial vehicles.
- Vans: 88.1%
- Trucks: 88.1%
- Cars: 87%
- SUVs: 85.9%
- Commercial vehicles: 76.2%
Statewide results show that from 2020 to 2021, seat belt usage increased for cars, trucks, and commercial vehicles and decreased for vans and SUVs. An increased focus on seat belt safety led to an overall 7.3% increase in seat belt usage from 2012 to 2021.
What role do seat belts play in protecting drivers and passengers? According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, seat belts saved an estimated 14,955 lives nationwide and could have saved an additional 2,549 people if they had buckled up in 2017 alone.
Using a seat belt can reduce your risk of:
- Fatal injury by 45% in the front seat of a passenger car and 60% in the front seat of a light truck
- Moderate to critical injuries by 50% in the front seat of a passenger car and 65% in the front seat of a light truck
Airbags are not enough to protect you in an accident. Without a seat belt, airbags could even seriously injure or kill you. Using a seat belt is the single most effective thing you can do to protect yourself in a crash.
Colorado has some of the most beautiful scenic mountain drives in the country. While mountain driving can be a serene experience, keep a few safety tips in mind.
Be Mindful of Braking
Riding your brakes down a steep decline can cause them to overheat. Instead, use first gear when driving downhill as a primary source for braking. Engine braking saves you from relying on your brake pedal, which helps your brake pads last longer and keeps your wheels turning. Turning wheels mean you can steer, which is critical when undertaking a steep downhill.
Keep Your Vehicle Maintained
Steep inclines and declines can be especially rough on your vehicle, so it’s wise to schedule a maintenance check-up before a big mountain trip. Pay special attention to the brakes, engine, battery, oil, windshield wipers, heater, and tire condition. You may need to take your car to a mechanic for a thorough check, or if you feel confident in your ability to evaluate vehicles, you can examine it yourself. Also, be sure to fill up with gas, as driving up steep inclines uses more fuel than driving straight or downhill.
Follow Safe Mountain Driving Etiquette
Mountain driving requires drivers to drive carefully, especially in adverse weather conditions. Avoid hugging the centerline when driving on winding roads, and take blind corners slowly while honking your horn to alert drivers coming from the other direction. On narrow single-lane roads, the driver going downhill should yield to the driver moving uphill by slowly reversing and finding a space to pull off the road.
Even experienced drivers must prepare for driving in Colorado winter weather. To ensure safe driving during the winter months, do the following:
- Clear your car of snow and ice before driving.
- Be careful when accelerating, braking, or turning. Those are the three actions you do most while driving, and you should only do them one at a time while driving in adverse weather conditions.
- Keep momentum while traveling uphill to avoid getting stuck.
- Follow Colorado’s Left Lane Law. No matter the time of year, keep right except to pass.
- Look ahead for traffic signs and plan for abrupt turns or stops.
- Keep your headlights low during the night. High beams can decrease visibility if there is snow.
- While traveling downhill, switch to a lower gear and gently tap your brakes to keep traction.
Click here to see Colorado’s vehicle traction and chain laws.
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