CDOT urges road safety after deadly motorcycle crashes reach all-time high in 2022

The Colorado Department of Transportation is warning drivers to be aware of motorcyclists on the road after motorcycle fatalities reached a record high in 2022.

Motorcycle fatalities tend to increase during summer months with the nicer weather, so CDOT officials urged all drivers to be cautious and advised motorcyclists to practice safe driving habits.

The 149 motorcycle fatalities in 2022 accounted for 20% of the state’s total traffic fatalities but the motorcycles involved represented only 3% of the state’s vehicle registrations, CDOT officials said in a news release. The number of motorcycle fatalities has generally risen since 2003 when 73 motorcyclists died.

The counties with the most motorcycle deaths in 2022 were El Paso with 25, Jefferson with 19, Adams with 12, Denver with 12 and Arapahoe with 11.

So far this year, motorcycle deaths are down 22% compared to this time last year; 21 motorcyclists have died on Colorado roads, down from 27 fatalities at this time last year.

Of the 2022 fatalities, over half of the motorcyclists were not wearing helmets, and nationwide, DOT-compliant helmet use decreased by 4% from 2020 to 2021.

“Wearing a helmet can mean the difference between a minor injury and a catastrophic one,” said Darrell Lingk, director of the Highway Safety Office at CDOT. “A rider without a helmet is extremely vulnerable to a permanent or life-altering injury in a crash. So wear a helmet and other protective gear to make it home safely to your family.”

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data estimates that helmets saved 1,872 motorcyclists’ lives in 2017, and 749 more lives could have been saved if all motorcyclists had worn their helmets.

Speeding and alcohol impairment are primary contributing factors to motorcycle fatalities.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 34% of motorcycle riders involved in fatal crashes nationwide were speeding and 27% of riders were alcohol-impaired — both of which are the highest percentages of any type of motor vehicle driver.

Training can be effective in countering motorcycle crashes.

“It only takes one mistake to result in tragedy,” said Col. Matthew C. Packard, chief of the Colorado State Patrol. “Trained riders tend to be in fewer and less severe crashes. Make a commitment to follow traffic laws and ride with reduced risk by advancing your skills through training.”

Other drivers also need to use caution around motorcycles, particularly around intersections where passenger vehicles often fail to see oncoming motorcycles.

CDOT recommends drivers and motorcyclists alike to keep the following tips in mind to reduce crashes:

  • Observe all traffic laws and always obey the speed limit.
  • Drive and ride alcohol- and drug-free.
  • Avoid distractions such as phones or anything else that takes eyes off the road.
  • Yield to motorcyclists, especially while turning at intersections.
  • Wear high-visibility personal protective gear and DOT-compliant motorcycle helmets.

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