Most people killed in vehicles on Colorado roads are not buckled up. Summer is around the corner, a time of year when traffic fatalities historically increase in Colorado. With more cars on the road, the Colorado Department of Transportation, the Colorado State Patrol (CSP) and law enforcement agencies statewide are putting a heavy focus on seat belts with increased enforcement beginning May 16 through June 5. This is the longest heightened seat belt enforcement period of the year.
The enforcement comes as fatalities on Colorado roads are the highest they've been in nearly two decades. Last year, 232 people killed in traffic crashes were not wearing a seat belt. On average there are over 150 traffic fatalities on Colorado roads during the summer months, more than any other time of year.
"We hear a lot of excuses when it comes to why people don't wear seatbelts, but I have one reason to buckle up that beats all of them," said Col. Matthew C. Packard, chief of the Colorado State Patrol. "Seat belts have been proven to save lives. There are a lot of factors out of your control when driving -- but this isn't one of them. Choose to buckle up every time."
In 2021, 22 unbuckled people were killed in traffic crashes in Denver County, the most in the state. The next highest counties were Arapahoe County (20 unbuckled deaths) and Weld County (16 unbuckled deaths). Denver's number was a 144 percent increase from the previous year when nine unbuckled people were killed. Those 22 fatalities in Denver represent nearly 60 percent of the 37 total passenger vehicle fatalities in the county in 2021.
In 2020, El Paso County had the highest number of unbuckled fatalities in the state (25). But in 2021, those numbers improved dramatically dropping 40 percent to 15 unbuckled people killed in traffic crashes.
In 2020, Mesa County had two unbuckled fatalities out of five total passenger vehicle deaths. Last year, those numbers doubled. In 2021, there were four unbuckled fatalities on Mesa County roads, which accounted for 57 percent of the seven total passenger vehicle deaths that year.
In Larimer County there were 11 unrestrained deaths last year.
According to the recent State of Colorado Statewide Seat Belt Survey, Colorado's seat belt use rate is 86 percent, which is below the national average of 90 percent.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), seat belts reduce the risk of injury or death in a crash by 50 percent. Without a seat belt fastened, people can be ejected from a vehicle and killed. The Click It or Ticket campaign encourages people to buckle up to avoid a citation but, more importantly, get home safely to their loved ones.
"Last year was a deadly and tragic year on Colorado roads. As a state, we have to do better," said CDOT's Office of Transportation Safety Director Darrell Lingk. "These enforcement periods are designed to keep drivers and passengers safe, but ultimately, it's up to you to protect yourself -- and we really hope you do."
This is the second Click It or Ticket enforcement period of 2022. Last year, 2,994 unrestrained drivers were issued citations across Colorado during the two Click It or Ticket enforcement periods. Fines for not buckling up in Colorado start at $65, and parents or caregivers caught with an improperly restrained child can receive a minimum fine of $82.
CDOT's seat belt campaign, Common Bond, highlights that while Coloradans hold passionate opinions and may not agree on everything, we can all get behind seat belts and the importance of buckling up. The campaign will be featured on billboards, posters, bus tails, social media, and radio PSAs in May and June. To view campaign materials, visit: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/c1bu6ktdw79jkoa/AADcw32hHrh1OHNV26mCSWKga?dl=0
Vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death for children ages 1 to 13, and according to NHTSA, 46 percent of car seats are being used incorrectly. Parents and caregivers can learn more about Colorado child passenger safety laws, recommendations and recalls at CarSeatsColorado.com.
COLORADO'S SEAT BELT LAWS
- Adults -- Colorado has a secondary enforcement law for adult drivers and front-seat passengers. Drivers can be ticketed for violating the seat belt law if they are stopped for another traffic violation.
- Teens -- Colorado's Graduated Drivers Licensing (GDL) law requires all drivers under 18 and their passengers, regardless of their age, to wear seat belts. This is a primary enforcement, meaning teens can be pulled over simply for not wearing a seat belt or having passengers without seat belts.
- Children -- Colorado's Child Passenger Safety law is a primary enforcement, meaning the driver can be stopped and ticketed if an officer sees an unrestrained or improperly restrained child under age 16 in the vehicle.