COLORADO — The number of people dying in crashes on Colorado roads has prompted an appeal from public safety leaders. "It will take a community response to change what is happening," said Colorado Springs Police Chief, Vince Niski.
Nearly 700 people died on Colorado roads in 2021. It is the highest number in 20 years. ‘It’s appalling to me to think that, that many people senselessly lose their lives,” said Chief of the Colorado State Patrol, Col. Matthew Packard. He believes the issue is a “crisis” in terms of traffic safety.
Some have suggested the rapid population growth in Colorado is to blame. Public safety leaders point out that the rising number of crash fatalities outpace the state’s rate of growth. So, the issue is more complex than new drivers on the roads.
Data shows the significant rise beginning shortly after the start of the pandemic. At the time the number of vehicles on the road dropped significantly, yet crash fatalities rose. When traffic returned to more normal numbers, fatalities continued.
"We're losing people for things that are extremely preventable,” said Packard, “I'm flummoxed to say the best. There's got to be something we can do better."
Asked about speed, Packard said one of his troopers was late to a meeting just hours earlier because of a stop involving a driver clocked at 107 miles per hour on Interstate 25 in Douglas County. Traffic officers are commonly seeing that kind of extreme speed.
Along with speed, evidence shows impaired and distracted driving on the rise, while seat belt use is dropping. Chief Niski said these things are not random, rather they are “choices” made by drivers. ”We have too many citizens losing their live in preventable crashes.”
Public safety leaders are speaking out with the hope that drivers will recognize this is a life-or-death issue. They said enforcement is effective, but other solutions are clearly needed. “I’ll tell you, if I had a thousand more troopers and could put them at every spot possible, it wouldn’t be enough,” said Packard, “So what it comes down to is personal responsibility.” Colorado drivers need to recognize they can be the problem or the solution.
El Paso County lead the state for 2021 with 77 traffic fatalities. Pueblo had just over 30, but the total is a 37% increase over the previous year.