Because of an increase in traffic deaths, Colorado safety advocates are urging the state to make laws stricter, wrote Elizabeth Hernandez for The Denver Post. Colorado is one of only 15 states that do not have primary seat belt laws. Its secondary law means that police can only ticket drivers for not wearing a seat belt if officers stop the vehicle for another violation. Seat belts reduce the occurrence of serious injuries and deaths by about half, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In 2015, the number of traffic fatalities in Colorado increased by 11.7%, with 545 people killed, compared with 488 people in 2014. The rise in traffic deaths could be due to lower gasoline prices, which brings more people to the roads, thereby increasing car accidents. Most experts say the number of deaths could be reduced, and serious injuries prevented, by strengthening laws, educating drivers, and using more safety technology.
Eliminating Traffic Fatalities
Traffic safety professionals discussed possible solutions for ways to reach “zero deaths” on the roads at a February conference in Denver. At that meeting, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Administrator Mark Rosekind said experts now know enough to get to zero fatal crashes, which he said are 100% preventable.
Seat belt usage in Colorado, 82.4%, consistently lags behind the 87% national average. According to NHTSA statistics, 927,000 Coloradans fail to wear their seat belts annually. The agency estimates that in Colorado, 22 lives could be saved per year, and 279 serious injuries could be avoided, if the state had a primary seat belt law. Colorado Department of Transportation spokesman Sam Cole said:
Passing a seat belt law or helmet law represents a classic struggle between those on the side of government overreach or personal responsibility and those on the side of using legislation to enhance safety.
In addition to not having a primary seat belt law, Colorado also lacks a law that requires all motorcyclists to wear helmets. Bruce Janson, a civil engineering professor at the University of Colorado Denver, asked why a car only makes a brief beeping sound when a driver or passenger fails to wear a seat belt. “That’s all we can come up with?” he asked.
Distracted Driving Deaths
In a related news item, an Associated Press report quotes Warren Buffet, owner of insurance provider Geico, who said distracted driving caused a rise in traffic deaths last year. In fact, he said auto insurance rates are increasing because of more accidents and more severe ones.