Traffic deaths are on the rise in Colorado.
The state has seen a 50% increase in traffic fatalities since 2011. What’s more, 2021 saw the most traffic deaths in Colorado since 2002.
“It’s not infrastructure,” said Colorado Springs Police Department chief Vincent Niski when asked about the recent surge in traffic deaths. “It’s about a personal choice to run a red light.”
Nevertheless, some roads in Colorado seem to be significantly more dangerous than others.
In this blog post, we’ll explore why some roads may be more dangerous than others. We’ll also take a look at the 5 most dangerous roads in Colorado.
What makes a road dangerous?
There are more than 100,000 car crashes in Colorado every year. Although the exact number varies from year to year, roughly half of all crashes are caused by something other than a “human factor.”
|Colorado crashes by contributing human factor (2019)|
|Fatigue||Illness||Inexperience||Aggressive driving||Evading police||DUI or DWAI||Distraction||Other human factor||No apparent human factor|
Non-human factors that can make roads dangerous and contribute to crashes include:
- Absence of guardrails
- Missing or obstructed road signs
- Poor road design
- Uncleared ice and snow
- Poorly painted traffic lines
- Sharp turns
- Excessive grades
- Overly narrow lanes
- Bridges without height warnings
The owner of a road is responsible for maintaining the road and keeping it free from dangerous conditions.
In the United States, the vast majority of roads (77.4%) are owned by units of local government (such as a town, city, or county). Roughly 3% of roads are owned by the federal government, including roads in national forests and parks.
If the government fails to maintain a road or fix a dangerous condition and an accident results because of the failure, the injured party may be able to sue the government for damages under the legal theory of negligence. The damages the injured party can recover include costs for medical bills, property damage, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
5 most dangerous roads in Colorado
U.S. Route 160
U.S. Route 160 isn’t only one of the most dangerous roads in Colorado, it’s one of the most dangerous roads in the entire country, according to data collected by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
U.S. Route 160, which runs east and west, enters the state near the Four Corners Monument in San Juan County, New Mexico, and exits the state through the town of Walsh, Colorado.
According to NHTSA, the stretch of U.S. 160 in Colorado sees an average of more than 11 fatal accidents every year. In 2019, the most recent year for which data is available, there were 14 fatal accidents on U.S. 160 in Colorado.
El Paso County saw the most fatal car accidents in Colorado in 2020, according to CDOT. Many of these accidents took place along Interstate 25 (also known as the “Valley Highway”), which runs 299 miles north and south and has some of the most dangerous intersections in the state.
I-25 offers majestic views of the Rocky Mountains between Denver and Colorado Springs, but unfortunately, blizzards and high winds along this stretch (particularly over Monument Hill in the Palmer Divide) are notorious for causing accidents during the winter months.
Colfax Avenue (U.S. Route 40)
Denver County saw the 2nd most fatal car accidents in 2020, according to CDOT.
The most dangerous road in Denver County is Colfax Avenue, the main street that runs east and west through the Denver metropolitan area. At just over 50 miles in length, Colfax Avenue is known as the “longest continuous commercial street in America.”
Although there is plenty to visit along Colfax Avenue, including the Denver Civic Center and the Ogden Theater, travelers should be particularly careful. There were 19 fatal car accidents along Colfax Avenue in 2019 alone.
Interstate 70 connects Grand Junction to Denver. The highway passes over the continental divide through the Loveland Pass, the highest point in the United States interstate highway system.
The stretch of highway is known for steep grades, razor turns, and treacherous winter conditions. Between 2017-2019, there were thousands of accidents and 21 fatal accidents along I-70 in Colorado.
CO-79 and E 88th Avenue
Let’s end on a hopeful note.
The intersection of Highway 79 and 88th Avenue near the town of Bennett (east of Denver) was 1 of the most dangerous intersections in Colorado for years, as evident by the many roadside memorials which dot the intersection.
"There are too many lives that have been lost at this intersection," said Danell Kalcevic, who lives and works nearby. "The price in the loss of life has been tragic."
In 2019, government officials decided that enough was enough. CDOT worked with Adams County to install rumble strips and LED stop signs. The number of accidents plummeted.
"As a mom, I can’t fathom losing my daughter at an intersection like this. I’m thankful and hopeful that no other parents have to go through that," said Danell. "I actually cried tears of joy the first day I came down and saw the sign and felt the rumble bars. It was very emotional for me."
Is there a particularly dangerous road you’ve traveled in Colorado?
Tell us about your experiences below.