68 deaths attributed to distracted driving in 2015; CDOT joins USDOT in new push

 

DENVER — In 2015, 68 lives ended due to crashes attributable to distracted driving in Colorado. Math from the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) shows roughly 40 crashes per day, and the number of crashes are on the rise.

Those are sobering, but not surprising statistics.

“I see a lot of people talking on the phones,” said Denver resident Julie Murphy Seavy. “I’ve seen people texting and driving and I’ve seen people putting on makeup.”

According to CDOT, drivers on many roads in Colorado travel the length of a football field in just four seconds, meaning taking one's eyes off the road can have disastrous consequences.

"If you take your eyes off the road for a matter of seconds, that could be when the car is going to swerve into your lane, or that could be when the bicyclist is going to come into your lane," Sam Cole, a CDOT spokesperson, said. 

That real danger, Cole said, was the cause behind at least 15,500 crashes in 2015, although he said distracted driving crashes are under-reported. 

"People aren't forthcoming after a crash about what they were doing before the crash," Cole said. 

According to Cole, the danger isn't just for drivers, it's for pedestrians and bicyclists. Deaths to pedestrians was up 30 percent in 2015 -- a historic year for traffic fatalities in the Centennial State. 

CDOT reported 605 deaths on Colorado roads in 2016, with more than 100 deaths in 2017 already.

And there have been many close calls.

Denver resident Frank Haas has seen a few of them.

“All of a sudden, you see someone’s eyes open up and they hit the brakes or turn,” Haas said.

CDOT wants people to discuss the issue.

Cole said they can go to CDOT’s Facebook page and share their tips or experiences.  Here’s the link: https://www.facebook.com/coloradodot/  You can scroll down to the April 1 posting about Distracted Driving.

CDOT has also tried to learn more about current driving habits.

An anonymous survey to Colorado drivers found 22 percent admitted to, at the very least, reading text messages while driving. 

"This survey provides us with a good but disturbing snapshot of what is actually happening on Colorado roadways," Darrell Lingk, the director of CDOT's Office of Transportation Safety, said. 

Still, even though a national survey showed 98 percent of drivers acknowledge distracted driving as dangerous, 75 percent admitted to engaging in it in that survey. 

That's why CDOT has gotten behind a new push, at the same time as a U.S. Department of Transportation push. 

Both focus on curbing distracted driving, and will feature visual advertisements and videos aimed at stirring feelings in drivers. 

As the campaigns point out, "If you text and drive, your next message might be your last." 

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