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The Denver Post is reporting that the top transportation official in the state has cited distracted driving as the root cause for a recent spike in roadway deaths in Colorado.

Shailen Bhatt, the executive director of the Colorado Department Transportation (CDOT), said the state has seen the maximum effect that system engineering, such as grade-separated crossings and dangerous intersection removal, has on traffic-related deaths. According to Bhatt, outside of statewide education programs, dangerous driving behavior is not something the state can immediately address and help curb.

CDOT says that distracted driving occurs when a driver does something while the vehicle is in motion that takes his or her focus and attention off of the road (https://www.codot.gov/safety/distracteddriving). This can include eating, drinking, texting, talking on a phone, reading, watching videos or dealing with children, pets or other passengers in the car.

In 2016, just over 600 people died in traffic accidents in Colorado. This figure includes 15 motorcyclist deaths – the most state has had over a one-year period – and a 15-year high of 16 bicyclist and 84 pedestrian deaths. The total number of deaths is up 11 percent from 2015’s tally of 547. Bhatt noted that around 90 percent of crashes are caused by human error, which is why these incidents are referred to as crashes and not accidents.

Colorado State Patrol Chief Col. Scott Hernandez has asked the public to help keep the figure down by taking personal accountability for their driving actions, and both officials are strongly encouraging the use of seat belts.

This 11 percent hike in deaths on Colorado’s roads has outpaced that state’s estimated population growth, which was 1.7 percent back in 2016 according to the state demographer’s office. Currently, 33 people have died on state roads since the start of the year, and this includes the tragic accident involving five Bennett High School students. As covered by the Denver Post, five students cut class in January and ended up in a rollover crash on East 38th Avenue. Two students died and the three others were seriously injured, and the crash remains under investigation.

According to data from CDOT, the roads of Adams County were the deadliest over the course of 2016, accounting for 58 crashes and the deaths of 60 people. Weld County came in next, with 57 deaths in collisions, followed by the 54 roadway deaths in Denver. Both Jefferson and El Paso counties saw 48 deaths each on their roadways. At least 276 deaths have happened on the roads of Colorado’s cities, with Denver coming in with the highest city total and the cities of Aurora and Colorado Springs following with 31 fatalities each.

Distracted driving remains an issue in the state and elsewhere across the nation despite the increase in public education on the subject, particularly when it comes to the dangers of cellphone use and driving. If you have been the victim of a distracted driver, speak to an experienced auto accident attorney today to help ensure all of your rights are protected.