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State sees highest number of traffic deaths in decades

There were seven traffic deaths in Longmont last year, same as 2021
stock car accident photo

Last year saw the most traffic deaths in Colorado since 1981 — and traffic death numbers did not improve in Longmont or Boulder County.

According to recently released numbers from the Colorado Department of Transportation, 745 people died in the state due to car crashes last year. In 2022, there were seven vehicle-related deaths in Longmont and 34 in Boulder County.

Boulder County saw the eighth highest number of traffic deaths in the state by county. Statewide, deaths have increased by 57% from 10 years ago.

Traffic deaths in Longmont have increased 250%, from two to seven, while the city’s population has grown by only 13.3%, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates.

“I wish we could correlate the increase in fatalities to Colorado’s population growth, but that’s not the case,” CDOT Chief Engineer Keith Stefanik said. “After falling for 30 years, the rate of crashes has steadily risen during the last decade. Furthermore, for every fatality, there are five serious injuries caused by crashes on Colorado roads. These injuries can leave a devastating lifelong toll on individuals and their families.”

Longmont saw the same number of traffic deaths in 2022 as 2021 at seven, six traffic deaths in 2020, 12 in 2019 and six in 2018. Boulder County had 33 deaths in 2021, 16 in 2020, 26 in 2019 and 21 in 2018.

Of the people killed statewide in 2022, 36% were outside the vehicle — meaning pedestrians, motorcyclists and bicyclists. The number of motorcycle and pedestrian fatalities is the most on record since 1975, CDOT said.

More than a third of traffic deaths in Colorado were caused by an impaired driver, according to CDOT data, up 6% from 2021. Since 2019, deaths involving an impaired driver have risen by almost 60%.

While alcohol was the most common cause of impairment, the number of drivers with THC levels above the legal limit has risen in recent years. Combinations of drugs are also a problem, with 25% of impaired drivers in fatal crashes having more than one substance in their blood.

Seat belt use is another factor in these fatal crashes, with the majority of passenger vehicle occupants killed in crashes being unbuckled. Seat belt use in the state remains at 87%, behind the national average of 90%. 

"Driver education and compliance with laws and regulations are key to maintaining safe roadways. Keeping our roads safe is a shared responsibility,” Colorado Division of Motor Vehicles Senior Director Electra Bustle said. "That education doesn’t end when you get your license. Driving poses a risk to others — it requires a lifelong commitment to do so safely.”

El Paso County had the most traffic deaths last year at 83.