Traffic fatalities up, seat belt use down in Colorado

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DENVER -- It seems simple enough: Put a seat belt on whenever getting in a car.

But in Colorado, the number of traffic fatalities involving people who aren't wearing a seat belt keeps going up.

The Colorado Department of Transportation is trying to raise awareness with a new "Beware of the Beltless" campaign.

CDOT is calling it a seat belt crisis. An agency spokesman said the number of people in Colorado putting them on keeps going down, while the number of unbuckled people dying in car crashes keeps going up.

Stenciled on the sidewalks around downtown Denver’s Civic Center Park were 147 bright yellow yield signs.

“These were people`s mother, father, sister, brother, friend,” CDOT spokesman Sam Cole said.

Each stencil represents a life lost on Colorado roads this year.

“As people walk by, they see that number and it might be a reminder to buckle up,” Cole said of the Beware of the Beltless campaign running over the next two weeks.

CDOT said the past two years show a double-digit spike in the number of traffic fatalities across the state.

“We have not seen that many fatalities since 2008,” he said.

Also on the rise, Cole said, is the number of people choosing not to wear their seat belt.

“A lot of people don`t know that they present not only a danger to themselves when they don't buckle up, but they also present a danger to other people in the vehicle,” he said.

Less than two weeks ago, two northern Colorado teachers were ejected and killed in a single vehicle rollover on Interstate 25. The Colorado State Patrol said neither was buckled in.

The sole survivor of the crash, the couple’s 2-year old daughter, was found tightly fastened in her car seat with minor injuries.

“The pain is fresh and unfortunately we are likely to see many more before the end of the year,” Cole said.

Tuesday morning, a rollover crash on Parker Road claimed the life of a 28-year-old who troopers said also was not wearing a seat belt.

“It’s just a simple thing to do. It takes 2 seconds to put on your seat belt,” Cole said.

CDOT said nearly half of the deaths this year could have been prevented by buckling up.

The department also said about 84 percent of Coloradans wear their seat belt; that’s down from last year and below the national average.