May 20, 2022 - News

Record traffic deaths spur calls for change

Percentage change in traffic fatalities from 2020 to 2021, by state
Data: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration; Cartogram: Axios Visuals

Denver's roads saw 84 people die in 2021 — making it the deadliest 12-month stretch in more than 20 years, according to the latest Vision Zero report from the city of Denver.

  • Reckless, careless and aggressive driving, and speeding were cited as the most common causes for fatal crashes.
  • DUIs and not wearing seat belts in cars or helmets on motorcycles were other factors.

Why it matters: The city is nowhere near its stated goal to have zero traffic-related deaths and injuries by 2030.

The latest: An unidentified man died on Wednesday after being struck on East Colfax by a driver in an SUV that fled, Denver police told Axios Denver.

  • The fatality was the 30th traffic death so far this year, per city data.
  • Denver Streets Partnership, a coalition for people-friendly streets, held a remembrance this week in the Sun Valley neighborhood for those who have died on city streets over the past year.

State of play: The organization is calling for several changes to reduce dependency on car travel, such as:

  • Expanding dedicated bus lanes, especially on 27 dangerous streets that the city calls the "high-injury network."
  • Moving forward on plans to build a bus rapid transit system line.
  • Rebuilding RTD's workforce by providing fair wages and working conditions.

What they're saying: "We have no time to waste. The alarming rate of fatal and preventable traffic crashes on our streets demands urgent action," Jill Locantore, executive director of the Denver Streets Partnership, said in a statement.

Flashback: The Denver City Council last year approved lowering the city's speed limit to 20 mph on thousands of residential streets.

Zoom out: U.S. traffic deaths hit a 16-year high last year, as an estimated 42,915 people died on America's roads.

  • The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported a 10.5% increase from 2020, when more than 38,824 deaths were reported, Axios' Oriana Gonzalez reports.
  • Colorado registered an 11.9% increase.

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