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Traffic fatalities at highest level since 2005

According to the Colorado Department of Transportation, traffic fatalities in the state have risen 24 percent since 2014, hitting its highest numbers in 11 years. CDOT data shows there were 605 traffic fatalities on all types of roadways in 2016, compared to 547 in 2015.Trooper Josh Lewis with the Colorado State Patrol said the CSP investigated 291 fatal crashes on Colorado highways and interstates in 2016, the same number as in 2015; however, the overall number of fatalities rose. In 2014, there were 284 fatalities; in 2015, there were 314; and, in 2016, there were 315 fatalities, he said.ìIn regard to main causal factors, ultimately there is not anything new or any one factor in particular to account for the increase,î Lewis said. ìThose factors include impaired driving, distracted or inattentive driving, speeding or lane violations. Those account for about 64 percent of the fatal crashes that the CSP investigated.îLewis said lane violations include weaving, changing lanes unsafely, not making sure the lane is clear when changing lanes and not using the turn signal. ìIt really just comes down to driving behavior in general,î he said.CSP is looking at a multi-pronged approach to deal with the increase in fatalities, beginning with training all the troopers, corporals and sergeants in the Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement program, Lewis said.According to the CDOT website, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, with input from the International Association of Chiefs of Police Technical Advisory Panel and the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police, developed the ARIDE program. ìARIDE was created to address the gap in training between the Standardized Field Sobriety Testing (SFST) and the Drug Evaluation and Classification (DEC) Program.î ARIDE is a 16-hour training course, taught by drug recognition experts.The CSP tries to educate the public as well by going out into the community, Lewis said. ìWe have approximately 400 different safety programs across the state, including safety presentations at schools and fairs, with appropriate information for literally every age level,î he said.Continuing and extending partnerships with other agencies like CDOT is another way the CSP is working to decrease traffic fatalities, Lewis said. Collaborating with other agencies on high enforcement campaigns, as well as educational programs is part of that effort, he said.Lewis said the final step to the multi-pronged approach is increased enforcement. ìIf the education does not work, it means going out there and stopping these issues before they become a fatality,î he said. The CSP tries to inform people that they need to plan ahead to avoid driving under the influence; and that there will be consequences, if they make a poor decision to drive impaired, Lewis said.Shailen Bhatt, executive director of CDOT, said, ìColorado is growing but that does not mean traffic fatalities must grow, too. A lot can be done to mitigate the increase; for example, if everyone buckled up we could save over 60 lives per year.îAccording to the CDOT website, unbelted occupants in vehicles are over-represented in the fatality data, making up half of the passenger vehicle fatalities across all Colorado roadways in 2016. Pedestrian fatalities spiked in 2016, up 24 from the 2011-2015 average of 60.Almost every fatal crash on Colorado roadways can be related to some sort of risky behavior, the CDOT website states. The odds of surviving a crash increase dramatically if motorists buckle up, watch their speed, stay away from drugs or alcohol while driving and do not use their phones, according to the CDOT website.ìThere are several possible reasons for the uptick (in traffic fatalities), such as more people on Coloradoís roadways,î Bhatt said. ìThe new data is troubling and represents a call to action for all our traffic safety partners in Colorado because the loss of even one life is one too many.î

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