COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado — There's been a sharp increase in the number of traffic deaths in Colorado Springs. Fifty people have died in car crashes this year, a 19 percent increase compared to 2019. It also surpassed the 48 traffic fatalities recorded in 2018.
The majority of the wrecks took place during the latter half of the year, with 41 of the 50 occurring after June 1.
"This is the largest number of traffic fatalities we've ever had," said Public Information Officer Lt. Jim Sokolik.
He explained that each crash occurred individually, there's not a single thread tying them together. The data show that slightly more than half (27) involved either pedestrians (12) or motorcycles (15.) Three of the traffic fatalities have involved a person riding a bicycle.
The worst outcomes occur most frequently when traffic is moving fast.
"Speed isn't always a factor in the cause of an accident, but speed is very often a factor in the lethality of an accident," Sokolik explained.
This rise in motor vehicle deaths is notable considering that fewer people are driving this year.
"This is not at all what we anticipated would happen, we thought this would be a record good year for preventing fatal crashes and it's turned out to be a terrible year," said Skyler McKinley of AAA Colorado.
"The best we can tell is that the pandemic has changed driver behavior such that they are more reckless."
Some of the more common bad driving behaviors included distracted driving (looking at phones) drunk driving, aggressive driving, and speeding. A study released earlier this month by Volvo found distracted driving to be the biggest threat to road safety with 55 percent of respondents admitting to talking on a cell phone while behind the wheel.
Roughly two-thirds of younger drivers from the millennial and generation z age groups reported being more distracted during the pandemic.
One-third of parents said they experienced pandemic related distractions on the road like
Lieutenant Sokolik said the police department is doing what it can to discourage bad driving behavior, but it's ultimately an individual choice to drive safely.
Red light cameras are now operating at 10 intersections throughout the city. Police officers will frequently conduct speeding and DUI enforcement patrols.
"We can attempt to change driving behavior, that's what the enforcement does, that's what the education does," Sokolik said. "But look, this is a partnership with us and our citizens to change their driving behavior."