DENVER — Hundreds of Coloradans die on roadways each year, but traffic deaths are accelerating at a fast pace.
Data shows since 2014, deaths from crashes are up 24 percent, with 605 deaths in 2016 and 547 deaths in 2015. The increase is a stark change from a trend started in 2002, when through 2014, fatalities had dropped 34 percent.
Some suggest the increasing population and growing traffic density is to blame, but Shailen Bhatt, the Colorado Department of Transportation executive director, suggested there are simple things Coloradans can do to save lives.
"Colorado is growing, but that doesn't mean traffic fatalities must grow too," Bhatt said. "A lot can be done to mitigate the increase; for example, if everyone buckled up we could save over 60 lives every year."
Bhatt points to the current seat belt-use rate of 84 percent, noting those without seatbelts represent 186 motorists who died in crashes in 2016.
Motorcyclists also are at an incredibly high risk, according to the data released Tuesday. In 2016, 125 motorcyclists died. That's more than any other year on record.
Bhatt said most of those motorcyclists weren't wearing helmets, noting it is a common sense measure just like a seat belt.
CDOT will pour hundreds of thousands of dollars into safety campaigns, but will increase spending to $390,000 for motorcycle safety alone.
With deaths on the rise across the board, what is the likelihood of getting into a crash in Colorado?
One in 33 drivers in Colorado will crash in 2017, but Bhatt has noted they don't have to be fatal. Common-sense measures can protect lives.
In Adams County, 60 people died in crashes. In Weld County, 56 died in crashes. In Denver County, 54 died in crashes.
Thirty-three percent of fatal crashes are likely to involve alcohol. In 2016, 196 fatalities were connected to the substance.
In order to avoid becoming a statistic, CDOT advises drivers to keep their eyes on the road, avoid drinking and driving, reduce speed and use safety measures like seat belts and helmets.