Because of the pandemic, in 2020 there has been a lot less traffic on Colorado roads. But the fatality rate has jumped by more than 20 percent per vehicle mile traveled.

Fewer Miles, Higher Fatality Rates

With just a few weeks to go in 2020, fatal crashes in Colorado were at their lowest number in years.

The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) found that as of November 24, 2020, 495 fatal auto accidents had occurred in the state during the year. That’s the lowest number since 2015, when 507 fatal accidents were recorded.

This year, traffic on Colorado roads has thinned because of the pandemic. During the first six months of 2020, drivers traveled 17 percent fewer miles than they did from January to June of 2019. So it stands to reason that the total number of car accidents would decline. On the other hand, though, the fatality rate has jumped by more than 20 percent per vehicle mile traveled.

According to Colorado Public Radio, this increase echoes a trend in 21 other states and the District of Columbia. Thanks to a 16.6 percent drop in vehicle miles traveled, the average number of traffic deaths in these states during the first six months of 2020 was six percent lower than it was during the same period in 2019. But the fatality rate per vehicle mile increased more than 12 percent.

According to CDOT spokesman Sam Cole, the reason is clear: “This has to do primarily with people in their vehicles being careless, ignoring the law, and taking advantage of our wide-open roads.”

What Affects Highway Safety?

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, several factors affect how safe you are on the highway:

  • Growth. From 1995 to 2020, the population of the United States has grown from 267 million to about 330 million. With a yearly growth rate of around 1.85 percent, Colorado is the second fastest-growing state in the country. Since 1980, the population of the state has doubled, rising from 2.9 million people to 5.8 million people. More people means more travel miles means more potential for accidents.
  • Older drivers. Since 2010, the number of Americans over the age of 65 has grown rapidly. Older motorists are typically over-represented in traffic fatalities. Although they make up 9 percent of the population, older Americans are involved in 13 percent of fatal accidents. The traffic fatality rate of drivers 65 and older is 17 times higher than that of drivers 25 to 65 years old.
  • Younger drivers. About 43 million drivers in the United States are between the ages of 16 and 24. Young drivers are more likely than older drivers to speed, drive aggressively, and drive while tipsy or drowsy. Which means more traffic accidents.
  • Commuting. The higher costs and other downsides of denser urban populations have led many to seek more affordable housing away from cities, making for longer commutes. Corporations are also escaping from city centers. Longer commutes mean a greater risk of traffic accidents.
  • Congestion. With about one billion vehicles traveling the world’s roads, congestion is a problem around the world. It’s certainly bad in Denver, which, according to INRIX Research, has the dubious honor of being among the top 20 U.S. cities in the category of traffic congestion. Some drivers respond to congestion by driving aggressively or indulging in other unsafe driving behavior.
  • Safety features. Many consumers are willing to pay more for enhanced safety features, and they are choosing vehicles based upon individual safety ratings.
  • Personal responsibility. Increasingly, individuals are being held more responsible for their own behavior and safety, which could affect liability laws and insurance coverage.

Motor vehicle accidents are a leading cause of death in Colorado. Speeding and impaired driving contribute 35 percent and 27 percent, respectively, to traffic-accident fatalities in the state.

Contact an experienced Colorado personal injury attorney.

If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident, contact the Law Offices of Daniel R. Rosen online or call 303-454-8000 or 800-ROSEN-911 to schedule your free initial consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney today.

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