Why Does Vehicular Homicide Happen in Colorado?

In Colorado, vehicular homicide is defined as causing another person’s death while driving a vehicle, whether intentionally or through reckless behavior. It can devastate families and communities, leaving lasting emotional and financial scars. Moreover, this serious criminal offense carries severe consequences, including lengthy prison sentences and steep fines.

Unfortunately, vehicular homicides have been rising throughout Colorado recently, leaving many people wondering why this frightening trend is happening. According to a report by the Denver Post, there were 57 fatal crashes in Colorado in the first two months of 2021 alone. This represents a 60% increase from the same period in 2020. The report notes that many of these crashes involved speeding, distracted driving, and impaired driving.

Why Is Vehicular Homicide Increasing in Colorado?

One reason for the increase in vehicular homicides in Colorado may be the state’s growing population. As more people move to Colorado, more drivers are on the roads, increasing the likelihood of accidents. Additionally, the state’s thriving economy has led to more people working and commuting daily, further increasing the traffic on the roads.

Another factor contributing to the rise in vehicular homicides is the prevalence of distracted driving. According to a report by the Colorado Department of Transportation, distracted driving was a factor in 43% of all fatal crashes in the state in 2019. This includes activities such as texting, using social media, or eating while driving. Despite efforts to curb distracted driving, many drivers continue to engage in these dangerous behaviors, putting themselves and others at risk.

Impaired driving is also a significant contributor to vehicular homicides in Colorado. In 2020, the state had over 4,800 alcohol-related crashes, resulting in 164 deaths. Additionally, drug-related crashes have increased in recent years, with marijuana being the most commonly detected drug in drivers involved in fatal crashes.

Causes of Colorado Vehicular Homicide

Colorado has seen a rise in vehicular homicide cases in recent years. There may be several reasons contributing to this startling statistic. 

  • Legalization of marijuana in Colorado. Marijuana use can impair a driver’s ability to operate a vehicle safely, leading to accidents and fatalities.
  • Drunk Driving. Colorado has a significant problem with drunk driving. According to the Colorado Department of Transportation, the state had 188 alcohol-related traffic fatalities in 2019. This represents a significant increase from the previous year, which saw 162 alcohol-related traffic fatalities.
  • Lenient laws regarding impaired driving. In Colorado, a driver is legally intoxicated with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 or higher. While this is in line with the national standard, some advocates argue that the limit should be lowered to .05, as studies have shown that impairment begins at lower levels of alcohol consumption. Additionally, Colorado does not have a mandatory ignition interlock law, which requires drivers with a history of impaired driving to install a device that prevents them from starting their vehicle if they have alcohol on their breath.
  • Distracted Driving. Another factor contributing to the rise in vehicular homicide cases in Colorado and nationwide is distracted driving. Distracted driving involves engaging in any activity that takes a driver’s attention away from the road, such as texting, talking on the phone, or eating while driving. According to a recent study by the Colorado Department of Transportation, distracted driving was a factor in 43% of all traffic fatalities in the state in 2018.
  • Lack of public transportation options. In many areas of Colorado, citizens are without access to reliable and affordable public transportation. Many people are then forced to rely on their own vehicles to get around, increasing the amount of traffic on the roads.

Preventing Vehicular Homicide in Colorado

One of the ultimate reasons vehicular homicide is considered so bad is due to the fact that it is entirely preventable. Every driver is responsible for operating their vehicle safely and with caution at all times and in all conditions. When someone chooses to disregard this responsibility and engage in reckless behavior behind the wheel, they risk the lives of others.

Preventing Vehicular Homicide in Colorado

To address the issue of vehicular homicides in Colorado, there have been a number of initiatives aimed at increasing awareness of the dangers of distracted and impaired driving. The Colorado Department of Transportation has launched several campaigns, including “Heads Up, Colorado” and “The Heat Is On,” to raise awareness of these issues and encourage safe driving practices. Additionally, lawmakers are considering stricter penalties for drivers convicted of vehicular homicide, including longer prison sentences and higher fines.

Overall, vehicular homicides are a heartbreaking and preventable problem that continues to occur increasingly on Colorado’s roads and highways. While many factors contribute to this trend, including population growth, distracted driving, and impaired driving, many steps can be taken to address these issues.

By increasing public awareness of the dangers of reckless and negligent driving, promoting safe driving practices, and enacting stricter penalties for those who cause fatal accidents, we can work together to reduce the number of vehicular homicides in Colorado and keep our roads safe for everyone.


About the Author:

Denver-based criminal defense and DUI attorney, Jacob E. Martinez, is a knowledgeable and experienced litigator with a record of success providing innovative solutions to clients facing criminal charges of any severity. Mr. Martinez has been recognized by countless legal organizations for his exemplary defense work, including Avvo, Best DWI Attorneys, Expertise, Lawyers of Distinction, The National Trial Lawyers, and others. He was also named one of the 10 Best in Client Satisfaction in Colorado by the American Institute of Criminal Law Attorneys for 2020, and is Lead Counsel rated.