Heather Willard / NewsBreak Denver / May 8, 2023
(Douglas County, Colo.) A 45-year-old man died after his motorcycle collided with an 81-year-old man’s pickup truck on April 8 on U.S 85 near Sedalia, according to the Colorado State Patrol’s Castle Rock troop.
The man is the first motorcycle death reported in Douglas County this year. To prevent further loss of life, the Colorado Department of Transportation is observing Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month.
Motorcyclists' deaths represented 20% of the state's total traffic fatalities in 2022 but only 3% of the state’s vehicle registrations, according to CDOT. As of May 1, motorcycle deaths in 2023 are down 22% compared to the same timeframe last year, when 27 motorcycle deaths were recorded. Nonetheless, 21 motorcyclists have died on Colorado roads so far this year.
Motorcycle fatalities tend to increase during the summer riding months. According to CDOT data, the lowest number of fatalities on record was 70 in 2003. That number more than doubled in 2022, with 149 motorcyclist deaths. In 2020, the state reported 140 motorcyclists deaths and another 137 the following year.
Last year, the counties with the most motorcycle deaths were El Paso (25), Jefferson (19), Adams (12), Denver (12) and Arapahoe (11). According to the CDOT Crash Data Dashboard, seven people died in motorcycle crashes in Douglas County last year, with speed, and aggression as leading crash factors. The dashboard also lists one fatal motorcycle crash that occurred this year in the county out of the four total car crash deaths.
Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows that speed and alcohol are large contributing factors in motorcycle crashes.
Last year, 75 of the 149 Colorado motorcycle fatalities involved riders not wearing helmets. The use of DOT-compliant motorcycle helmets declined from 69% in 2020 to 65% in 2021, according to the NHTSA. Helmet use was significantly higher in states that require all motorcyclists to be helmeted. Only riders under 18 are required to wear helmets in Colorado.
"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."
Colorado’s Motorcycle Operator Safety Training program is run by the Colorado State Patrol, which oversees 19 training courses statewide. Training annually can help motorcyclists stay safe on the road.
"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."
Drivers also need to use caution around motorcycles. Intersections are particularly dangerous since drivers of passenger vehicles often fail to see oncoming motorcycles. CDOT recommends motorists yield to motorcyclists, especially while turning at intersections.