JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. (KDVR) — Traffic deaths surged across Colorado last year, hitting a 20-year high.

As troopers try something new to save lives, FOX31’s Nicole Fierro went on a ride-along to get an up-close look at the deadly decisions people are making on the road.

In 2021, Colorado State Troopers investigating injury and fatal crashes around the state saw a spike in crashes caused by drivers leaving their lane, both crossing over the center line or off the side of the road. Investigators found a 30.6% increase in injury crashes and a 74% increase in fatal crashes caused by lane violations.   

“State Patrol’s always looking for these violations because of what they can indicate,” Sgt. Troy Kessler said.

While stopping lane crossers on a ride-along with FOX31, Sgt. Kessler came across multiple drivers distracted on their phones. One driver said he veered while situating his dog in the passenger seat. Another driver who got pulled over for leaving his lane was behind the wheel with a suspended license. 

“I think there’s this misconception that lane violations aren’t that big of a deal. If you veer out of your lane just a little bit, you’re not going to injure somebody or you’re surely not going to kill somebody,” Sgt. Kessler said. “But the fact is, that it is a big deal and we’ve seen injury and fatal crashes go up because of it.”

CSP sites conscious choices to drive distracted, driving under the influence and driving aggressively as actions resulting in fatal behaviors on Colorado roads.

Looking at last year’s lane violation-caused fatal crashes investigated by CSP the top five counties that had the largest quantity of fatalities were:

1. El Paso County

2. Douglas County

3. Boulder County

4. Mesa County

5. Jefferson County

Looking at data from 2019 to 2021 showed that Saturday was the deadliest day of the week for lane violation crashes with peak hours between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m.

“In the afternoon and when people are focused on other things and their mind is not on driving, that’s when the accident happens,” Sgt. Kessler said. “There is that education component behind it, of course it affects the driver and their license a little bit, but the ultimate goal is that they would change their behavior and they would be safer drivers out there for everybody.”

CSP is taking a low-tolerance approach to lane violations while continuing its year-long campaign called “Stay in Your Lane.” This campaign is designed to remind people to control their lane position based on their current driving environment. The Colorado State Patrol issued over 14,600 people citations last year.