Teen traffic fatalities up 22 percent from last year; CDOT campaign aims to curb avoidable crashes

DENVER — Last year, 67 people between the ages of 15 and 20 were killed in traffic crashes statewide, according to the Colorado Department of Transportation.

That is a 22 percent increase from 2016 when 55 were killed and the highest number of fatalities for that age group since 2008.

To encourage teen drivers to practice safety on the roads, CDOT is launching a safety campaign aimed at increasing awareness of Colorado’s Graduated Driver Licensing program.

Colorado first adopted a Graduated Driver Licensing law in 1999 after a crash in Greeley killed four teenagers.

The 16-year-old driver had just gotten his license. CDOT said the driver had little experience driving when his friends jumped in his car and he ran a stop sign.

The law helps teens gain important driving skills gradually while putting restrictions on the number of passengers permitted, banning cellphone use, setting a curfew and requiring driver education.

According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, half of all unintentional injury deaths for Coloradans between ages 5 and 24 are because of motor vehicle crashes.

“Teens face the greatest risk of crashing during the first year of their license,” CDOT spokesman Sam Cole said. “One out of every five licensed 16-year-olds will be in a motor vehicle crash. For 16- to 17-year-olds, carrying just one passenger increases the crash risk by about 50 percent.”

The campaign will target teens ages 15 to 18 who already have their driver’s license, where they spend a lot of their time — on social media — including Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook.

The aim is to educate teen drivers on the three primary GDL issues, including number of passengers in the car, mobile phone distractions and seat belt safety.

To increase teen awareness of GDL laws,  informative videos illustrate the driving laws — everything from not using a cellphone to passenger restrictions.

“Colorado’s Graduated Driver Licensing laws work,” said Cpl. Ivan Alvarado of the Colorado State Patrol. “Since the restrictions went into effect in 1999, the number of teens killed in car crashes in Colorado has dropped by more than 50 percent.”

Since 2004, when GDL laws were strengthened to include passenger restrictions and nighttime curfews, there has been a 66 percent reduction in deaths of teens ages 15 to 19.

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