(COLORADO) — 2022 was the worst year for fatal crashes in Colorado, since 1981. “We are in challenging times right now,” said Col. Matthew Packard, Chief of the Colorado State Patrol (CSP) during a press conference on Monday, Jan. 23.

Col. Packard said in 2022, there were 745 deaths due to fatal crashes in Colorado, with El Paso County being one of the worst counties for fatal crashes statewide.

Speed was a leading factor in fatal crashes in 2022, and just last week, the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) and CSP, came out with a new campaign reminding drivers, specifically in El Paso County, to slow down.

Col. Packard said impaired driving also remains a top factor for fatal crashes, and said CSP saw a 7% increase in impaired drivers for 2022. He also mentioned that troopers are seeing more polysubstance use when it comes to impaired driving and that the CSP saw a 51% increase in crashes that involved cannabis use last year.

“An impaired driver is a deadly driver,” said Col. Packard when explaining that there is no excuse to get behind the wheel if you’re impaired. “I can not imagine a more selfish decision than driving impaired.”

Col. Packard explained the importance of keeping impaired drivers off the roadways and said one of those ways is through Drug Recognition Experts, which are trained to identify substance use in drivers.

There was also a significant increase in crashes involving pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorcyclists in 2022, according to Keith Stefanik, the Deputy Chief Engineer for CDOT. “It’s a partnership to get this done… to get this rate under control,” said Stefanik, when referring to the new safety program launched by CDOT and partnering agencies.

The ‘Advancing Transportation Safety Program,’ includes four key areas of focus: Safe Drivers; Safe People; Safe Roads; and Post-Crash Care. “It does take all of us… the way we solve this problem, is bringing it to the forefront,” said Col. Packard. “Whether you are behind the wheel or on the soles of your shoes, we need everyone to pay attention.”

“Additionally, CDOT and CSP will be collaborating with state agencies, local law enforcement, community groups, and municipalities to address the issue. Upcoming road projects and new safety campaigns using federal funds will also be implemented as part of the plan,” according to CDOT.

While prevention efforts are well underway to combat this problem, CDOT is also taking steps to improve post-crash care, like response times of emergency services and putting measures in place to continue the flow of traffic quicker after a crash.

Patrick Chavez, CDOT Coordinator for the Statewide Traffic Incident Management (TIM) Program, said putting measures in place for post-crash care will also help to reduce secondary crashes.

Chavez said there are currently 27 TIM teams in Colorado that are working to improve post-crash care, aiming to reduce the impacts on traffic or secondary crashes.

“Over the last decade the rate and number of traffic deaths in Colorado has been on the rise, and state officials have made it a priority to take action to reverse this trend,” wrote CDOT.