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Foothills crashes spiked nearly 30% over average during the March 2003 storm

Weather

Lots of snow and a few crashes in the DTC area

DENVER (KDVR) — Winter is still coming. Along with it could be some of the most dangerous road conditions.

Crash data shows giant spikes during large snow events.

Models project an incoming storm will meet or exceed the snowfall of records storms in both 2003 and 2006. Front Range communities, especially in western Denver suburbs, are likely to receive anywhere between one and three feet of snow over the weekend.

The Colorado Department of Transportation has already released public guidance for Coloradans not to travel.

“With the potential of a high-impact snow storm in the forecast this weekend, CDOT is urging motorists to keep a close watch on the weather and road conditions and plan to stay off the roads during the storm,” reads the warning. “It is best to stay off the roads during a heavy snow event.”

Historically, the state experiences the most crashes in late fall and early winter months associated with the most snowfalls. March and April, on average, see lowest number of crashes.

That changes, however, in big snow events like the March 2003 storm that this weekend’s storm is expected to match.

Data Desk used Jefferson County’s crash records as a snapshot to illustrate the dangers of driving in storms.

The biggest snowfall event of the 21st century occurred March 17-19, 2003, when the Denver International Airport recorded just under 32 inches of accumulation.

During March 2003, Jefferson County had more crashes than the average December – the most crash-prone month in the calendar.

For 19 years, March has been the second-safest month to drive in Jefferson County, with an average 874 deaths.

In 2003, the storm helped bring the March total to 1,123, a 29% rise.

The same pattern appears in Douglas County, just south of Jefferson County and also abutting the Rocky Mountain foothills.

Like Colorado at large and Jefferson County, March has one of the lowest monthly crash averages on the calendar. Also like Jefferson County, the March 2003 storm helped drive those numbers up.

Douglas County has an average 356 crashes on average, but had 424 in March 2003, a 19% increase.

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