Colorado’s Front Range urban boom may explain spike in traffic deaths

Posted: Jan 12, 2021 / 04:57 PM MST
/ Updated: Jan 12, 2021 / 04:57 PM MST

DENVER (KDVR) — More cities, more problems.

So suggests a AAA study that details a 30-year national trend of rising pedestrian traffic accidents and fatalities in 2018. Pedestrian traffic fatalities rose that year by 55% nationwide, but by 89% in Colorado.

Colorado’s urban growth could explain the difference between the national and state numbers.

In a statement, Skyler McKinley, director of public affairs for AAA Colorado, theorized that Colorado’s active culture drives people outdoors more than the U.S. at large, but the other half of the story is in the urbanizing population in America in general and Colorado in particular.

“In Colorado and across the country, the startling jump in deaths occurred almost entirely in urban areas, much of it at mid-block locations along arterials (major roads designed to move large volumes of traffic),” read a AAA statement. “Urban crashes account for 93 percent of the total national increase in pedestrian fatalities.”

Most of the AAA data points to cities.

Of the national 55% increase, certain brackets make up larger percentages of the whole than others. For example, of the total increase in pedestrian accidents, 43% happened between dusk and down in lighted areas.

The biggest percentages of five crash statistics paint a picture. Most happen at major urban roads in the dark away from an intersection between 4 p.m. and 11 p.m.

These play into the way Colorado has grown. The profiles of fatal accidents point to increased city life, and Colorado’s city life has expanded faster than the country’s.

The world at large is going through a rapid urbanization phase right now. According to World Bank data, 56% of the world now lives in urban areas, nearly double what it was in 1960. Going with the trend, both the United States’ and Colorado’s population have become increasingly city-oriented.

Colorado welcomed more city slickers than average in the last ten years. Colorado’s population grew twice as fast as the U.S. between 2008 and 2018. The state went from 4,901,938 people in 2008 to 5,694,311 ten years later.

The vast majority of this population boom went into urban areas.

The ten counties with the greatest share of population increase are also the counties with the highest population density – Front Range counties in the Denver-Aurora combined statistical area.

The 12 counties that comprise this area – Arapahoe, Adams, Boulder, Broomfield, Clear Creek, Douglas, Denver, Elbert, Gilpin, Jefferson, Park, and Weld – added 526,932 residents from 2010 to 2019.

That’s 78% of the amount of new Coloradans over the same time period. Denver alone added 127,386 residents from 2010 to 2019.

With that many more people in Colorado’s urban areas, AAA’s numbers make sense. With a population growth rate of twice the national average over the last decade taking place mainly in cities, it stands to reason Colorado would see a corresponding rise in traffic deaths that mostly take place on city arterials.

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