Denver ties record for traffic-related deaths since Vision Zero was implemented

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DENVER (KDVR) — In the years since Denver implemented a goal of zero traffic-related deaths in the city, traffic fatalities have instead been slowly increasing.

A Wednesday night crash at the intersection of Pecos Street and Dixie Place has set a grim milestone for Denver. One person was killed in the crash, bringing the total number of traffic-related deaths in Denver in 2021 to 71.

It ties the record high since Vision Zero was implemented in Denver in 2017.

“The numbers are going in the wrong direction,” says Jill Locantore with Denver Streets Partnership. 

In 2017, Mayor Michael Hancock outlined a goal of zero traffic-related deaths in Denver by 2030, drawing comparisons to Sweden, which reduced traffic fatalities by half, according to the Vision Zero plan

Instead, traffic-related fatalities have slowly increased. The all-time record for traffic-related deaths is 100, which happened in 1969.

Denver traffic-related deaths since 2013

  • 2013: 47
  • 2014: 49
  • 2015: 57
  • 2016: 61
  • 2017: 51
  • 2018: 64
  • 2019: 71
  • 2020: 57
  • 2021: 71 

“It’s heartbreaking,” Locantore said. “These aren’t just numbers. Every single one is a family member, a friend, a neighbor whose life has been lost, and we are not doing enough to prevent these tragedies from happening.”

Common factor in majority of Denver’s fatal crashes

A spokesperson for Denver’s Department of Transportation and Infrastructure said Thursday they are sticking to the Vision Zero goal, focusing on the city’s “High Injury Network”.

That network focuses on streets where the most deadly crashes happen, including Colfax Avenue and Federal Boulevard.

Those efforts include more traffic-calming measures, safer pedestrian crossings, better signal operations and better bike lanes.

The city also says drivers need to do their part to bring the numbers down, citing “speeding, distracted driving, and driver under the influence contributing to incidences of fatal crashes in Denver. This year 70% of the fatal vehicular crash victims were not using their seatbelts.” 

According to city records, 36 of the 71 victims were either drivers or passengers in vehicles. 15 were walking, 14 were on motorcycles, four were biking and two were on scooters.

“The goal is to get to zero traffic fatalities,” Locantore said. “It may sound ambitious, but the alternative question is how many fatalities are acceptable?”

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