The No. 1 causal factor in Colorado auto accidents? Inattention by drivers. Don’t be a statistic.

The Colorado State Patrol (CSP), part of the Department of Public Safety, plays a huge role in keeping drivers safe on Colorado roads. As the only statewide traffic safety enforcement agency, CSP is called upon to investigate about 30 percent of all Colorado auto accidents, and 70 percent of all fatal crashes in the state.

Each year, the department reviews information on traffic accidents and looks for ways of making roads safer for drivers, passengers, and pedestrians. One thing that has been a constant over the years is that a majority of accidents are the result of human behavior — sometimes, reckless human behavior.

Colorado Traffic Accidents on the Rise

Though not yet officially confirmed by CSP, a Denver news report noted that in 2016, 605 people were killed in Colorado traffic accidents. This number includes 125 motorcyclists, 84 pedestrians, and 16 bicyclists. That’s an increase from the 545 people killed in 2015, despite the efforts of Colorado officials to decrease the number.

In 2014, the most recent year with official crash numbers from CSP, the law enforcement agency investigated 3,712 accidents. Every accident investigated by CSP is assigned what is called a causal factor, or what authorities believe is the reason for the accident. In 2014, police say the No. 1 causal factor was inattention by drivers.

Inattentive, or distracted driving can be due to many factors, including (but not limited to) talking on a cell phone, texting, or eating while driving. State troopers note that 732 crashes in 2014 were due to inattentive driving, which was nearly 20 percent of all auto accidents investigated by CSP. Though not as high as 2012, when 21.1 percent of crashes were due to inattentive driving, police continue to explain that this type of accident can be avoided if drivers would do one thing: focus only on driving.

Other Culprits to Blame for Increased Collisions

CSP notes five categories of primary causal factors. In addition to the No. 1 cause, inattentiveness, CSP also notes:

  • Speeding, which came in second. It led to 638 — 17.2 percent — of crashes investigated by CSP.
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs came in third, with 13.8 percent of crashes.
  • Aggressive driving behaviors rounded out the fourth and fifth spots. These behaviors include lane violations, following too closely, failure to yield right of way, improper passing, ignoring stop signs, and driving on the wrong side of the road.

The Refusal to Buckle Up

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than half of the people killed in 2009 car accidents were not wearing a seat belt. That’s more than 15,000 people.

As the CDC highlights, auto accidents are the leading cause of death for people 1-54 years of age. And while the agency says seat belt use is the most effective way to save lives, millions of people still refuse to buckle up.

Coloradans don’t have the best record for using seat belts, according to the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT). The usage rate is 84 percent, which means 16 percent of motorists chose not to wear a seat belt. In 2016, nearly half of all passenger fatalities were unrestrained. Had these individuals taken the time to put on a seat belt, they could be alive today.

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