CDOT, CSP and DMV announce progress in reducing traffic deaths in 2023

Traffic Safety Pulse News

At the end of January, CDOT released preliminary data showing a 6% decrease in traffic fatalities on Colorado roadways in 2023 compared to 2022, marking the first decline since 2019. While this is good news, CDOT emphasizes that even one life lost is too many and reaffirms its commitment to achieving zero deaths and serious injuries on the state’s roads.

Colorado traffic deaths in 2023 (data is preliminary):

  • All traffic deaths - 716 (decrease of 6% from 2022)
  • Passenger vehicle deaths - 408 (decrease of 12% from 2022)
  • Motorcycle deaths - 134 (decrease of 10% from 2022)
  • Impaired driving deaths - 227 (decrease of 21% over 2022)
  • Unbuckled seat belt deaths - 216 (decrease of 6% over 2022)
  • Pedestrian deaths - 133 (increase of 16% over 2022)
  • Bicycle deaths - 20 (increase of 33% over 2022)
  • Construction zone deaths - 16 (increase of 60% over 2022)

"We are pleased to see the progress we've made this past year in reducing fatalities on our roadways and we want more drivers to jump on board with making daily positive choices to move Colorado into the forefront of being one of the safest states to travel," said Col. Matthew C. Packard, chief of the Colorado State Patrol. "Conscious choices can become habits. Modeling daily actions like driving at posted speed limits, putting devices or food out of reach, and refusing to drive after drinking or taking other impairing substances, makes a difference in that moment and speaks volumes to family and friends around you."

Despite these gains, there was a significant increase in deaths among pedestrians and bicyclists last year. In 2023, 153 pedestrians and cyclists lost their lives, marking a 18% increase over the previous year. These vulnerable road users account for 21% of all traffic deaths.
People not using seat belts was a big factor in fatal crashes in the state. Last year, 12% of people did not buckle up — contributing to over 200 deaths. Others were on their phones driving distracted. And about a third of fatal crashes involved impaired driving, increasingly with alcohol plus another substance. Finally, speed was a top contributor to crashes accounting for 16% of all fatal crashes in 2023.

The month of July 2023 was the worst month on record for traffic deaths in the state with 90 people killed in a single month.
In 2023, the highest fatality numbers were in the following counties: El Paso - 78; Denver - 73; Arapahoe - 68; Adams - 62; Weld - 55; Jefferson - 48; Larimer - 44. The cities with the highest numbers were: Denver - 73; Aurora - 63; Colorado Springs - 48; Pueblo - 23; Lakewood - 21.

The substantial decrease in risky behaviors on Colorado roads in 2023 was helped by standing up the Advancing Transportation Safety (ATS) initiative, which allowed CDOT to come together with a diverse network of stakeholders to create tangible action items and strategies to improve safety. This initiative takes a comprehensive approach to road safety through five emphasis areas: Safe Road Design, Safe Driving, Safe People, Post-Crash Care and Positive Safety Culture.

In 2024, CDOT is launching a new awareness campaign called Shift into Safe, which will both inform and motivate behavior change on Colorado roads. For more information about Shift into Safe, click here. Also, this year, CDOT’s Highway Safety Office will award over $13.5 million in federal funds from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to local partners engaged in education, awareness and prevention efforts. These funds also support local law enforcement agencies conducting DUI and seat belt enforcement in their communities.

“Law enforcement efforts alone can’t solve the problem of rising fatalities on our roadways. Drivers must do their part too,” said Keith Stefanik, chief engineer at CDOT. “We must re-commit ourselves to safety. This includes always buckling up, keeping our speed down, staying off our phones and never driving impaired.”

The Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is instrumental in licensing and training roadway users throughout the state. The DMV’s comprehensive education and innovative programs ensure all Coloradans are well prepared and fit to drive.

"The DMV's goal is to ensure that drivers understand the significance of making responsible decisions and the potential life-altering impact their choices may have on others," said Division of Motor Vehicles Senior Director Electra Bustle. "Together with our traffic safety partners, we are dedicated to enhancing road safety."

In 2024, CDOT’s focus on protecting vulnerable road users will be informed by the Vulnerable Road Users Safety Assessment that places an emphasis on disproportionately impacted communities. It aims to improve safety by evaluating intersections, crosswalks, signage and other factors affecting vulnerable road users, leading to recommendations for enhancements and mitigations. CDOT honors the cultural diversity and integrity of our Colorado communities and prioritizes its most vulnerable by promoting awareness of transportation safety and addressing inequities that exist.

“A key component of transportation safety is understanding that people make mistakes,” said Stefanik. “That is why we strive to build resiliency and redundancy into the transportation system to prevent those mistakes from being deadly ones. This means roundabouts instead of four-way intersections, increased use of cable rail and rumble strips to keep vehicles on the road, improved striping, and more.”

A notable CDOT initiative is the CO 119 Safety and Mobility project, introducing a protected bike and pedestrian trail in the median, along with a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system, connecting Longmont to Boulder. Engineering improvements, such as rumble strips on road shoulders, aim to warn drivers and safeguard bicyclists.

CDOT’s Revitalizing Main Streets program is also improving safety. To date, the program has awarded $75 million in over 240 community grants. Transportation safety transcends ownership and county lines, and, as a result, CDOT annually invests over $90 million in local community partners through grants to advance the safety of Colorado's transportation infrastructure, often on assets such as bridges, sidewalks, roads and highways not owned by the state. For example, CDOT funded the completion of the new sidewalks and ADA ramps throughout downtown Kersey, a new bikeway in the City of Broomfield on US 36 and CO 128, and a safer walking and biking path for children to get to and from school between the towns of Westcliffe and Silvercliffe.

In Denver, investments are working to improve safety along the city’s high injury network, which is 5% of its streets but accounts for 50% of all traffic fatalities.

“There are streets in Denver that are disproportionately unsafe, and eliminating fatal and serious injury crashes on these roadways requires a safe system approach to plan, design and operate our street system to anticipate and mitigate human mistakes,” said Jennifer Hillhouse, director of transportation and mobility planning for the City and County of Denver. “To reduce fatalities, we’re focused on making infrastructure changes that slow drivers down and provide greater protections for those walking, biking, rolling and taking transit.”

CDOT has also expanded its Bustang service to meet public demand and anticipates transformative projects like bus rapid transit and a Front Range rail service — made possible by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act — promising not only convenience but also significant lifesaving impacts.