Colo. Gov. Reports Drop in Alcohol-Related Traffic Deaths as Summer Driving Heats Up

July 6, 2004

Colorado’s alcohol-related traffic deaths dropped 18 percent last year, Governor Bill Owens announced recently.

“Tougher laws, greater public awareness and increased DUI enforcement have combined to make our roads safer,” Owens said. “While the drop in alcohol-related traffic deaths is encouraging, drunk drivers are still a threat claiming far too many lives, leaving grieving families behind. With all of the alternatives that are available, there is simply no excuse for drinking and driving.”

Statistics compiled by the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) showed that 213 people died in alcohol-related traffic crashes in 2003, down from 260 in 2002.

Owens noted that Colorado’s DUI laws would be even tougher starting July 1, just as the peak summer driving season begins and the state historically sees an increase in alcohol-related traffic deaths.

Last year, more than 40 percent of the traffic deaths in July and August were alcohol-related.

The just completed holiday weekend was of special concern. In 2003, the Fourth of July fell on a Friday and 12 people died in traffic crashes during the three-day holiday period. Two-thirds of the deaths involved alcohol.

Only one of the 12 victims wore a seat belt. Nine of the victims were ejected from their vehicles.

Starting July 1, the legal limit for DUI (Driving Under the Influence) in Colorado is .08 BAC (blood or breath alcohol content). Colorado’s DWAI (Driving While Ability Impaired) provision in the law still applies to drivers with a .05 to .07 BAC and these drivers are also subject to arrest.

“Enforcement of DUI laws and education about the dangers of impaired driving are top priorities for CDOT’s traffic safety program,” Tom Norton, CDOT executive director, commented.

CDOT funds the DUI Checkpoint Colorado program to increase the number of sobriety checkpoints during the summer months. Last year the program conducted 82 sobriety checkpoints, resulting in 560 DUI arrests. This summer enforcement agencies plan 116 sobriety checkpoints.

“We recognize that the majority of Coloradans drive responsibly and help keep our highways safe,” Col. Mark Trostel, Chief of the CSP, added. “With the lower level for DUI and strict enforcement, hopefully future years will see continued reductions in alcohol-related traffic deaths in Colorado.”

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