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What can we do to prevent fatal accidents?

On behalf of Dolan + Zimmerman LLP May 25, 2018

While cities like Denver and Boulder have adopted action plans with the goal of reducing the number of traffic fatalities to zero, the number of people actually killed in car accidents in Colorado saw an increase in 2017. Naturally, this is leading some to question just how well these plans are working.

More than 33 U.S. jurisdictions have adopted the Vision Zero initiative. This initiative it based on the idea that accidents are completely preventable and that by implementing specific strategies — such as enforcement and safe street design — that one day there would not be any traffic fatalities in cities like Boulder and Colorado. However, as The Washington Post article points out, some are becoming quite skeptical of the initiative, especially since traffic fatality numbers are continuing to sore.

Colorado fatalities: Looking at the numbers

While accident fatality numbers across the U.S. did decrease — just slightly — in 2017, Colorado actually saw an increase.

According to the National Safety Council, there was a 1 percent decrease in the number of fatal accidents on U.S. roadways in 2017. With approximately 40,100 people killed, and such a small decrease overall, this is hardly a reason to celebrate.

Looking just at Colorado, the numbers get even more abysmal, as there was an increase in the number of fatalities in 2017, with the number reaching the highest total it has been since 2004 when 667 people died in crashes. In 2017, the number was close, with 642 passing away due to an accident.

As of February, 50 people had already been killed in Colorado this year in accidents.

What is causing the increase?

There are a number of reasons for these increases, with the safety council pointing to the fact that over the last several years the economy has improved, so people are driving more and once again going on road trips. More people on the roads naturally increases the chance of getting into an accident.

However, there are certainly other causes at play here, including:

  • Distracted driving: With the popularity of smartphones and other devices, people feel the need to constantly stay connected and interact — even while driving. Paying attention to anything aside from driving puts you at risk of getting into an accident.
  • Drunk driving: Everyone knows it is illegal to drink and drive, but plenty of people still take the risk. And while police do patrol and enforce drunk driving laws, they are not able to catch every single drunk driver.
  • Failing to obey traffic laws: Whether it’s going through a stop sign, or tailgating too closely — there are plenty of situations where drivers make risky driving decisions that put themselves and others at risk.
  • Poor road design: We’ve all been at that intersection — the one with the blind spot to the left. Or on those long and windy roads that are simply too narrow. Unsafe road design certainly increases the risk. And while Vision Zero does include safe road design, it is not possible to make giant sweeping changes quickly, especially to roads that already exist.

While as drivers we can certainly do our part to reduce the number of accidents, we cannot control the actions of others. This puts us all still at risk of getting into an accident. The hope is that we see a decrease in the number of fatalities in 2018, but with at least 50 fatalities already reported on Colorado roadways, it is safe to say the Vision Zero initiative will not hit its goal this year.