Denver Post on the Spike in Colorado Traffic Deaths: Ho-Hum

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Photo: 1BitterIntern/Flickr

A Denver Post editorial published Friday evening opposing stricter seat belt laws provides a troubling glimpse into how Denver’s paper of record views traffic deaths.

Last year the number of people who lost their lives hit an eight-year high of 545, the fourth year in a row that traffic fatalities increased.

Here’s the complacent response from the paper:

The spike last year in Colorado traffic deaths, as reported this week in The Denver Post, is of definite concern. Whether it’s the start of an actual trend that warrants additional laws to counteract, however, is another matter.

Here’s what is known about traffic fatality trends in Colorado: A decades-long decline in fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled appears to have stalled, based on evidence from the past few years.

That’s obviously worrying, but it would be far more worrisome if the fatality rate was poised to march back up again.

No reason to take action, the Post is saying, because 545 traffic deaths is no cause for alarm. As long as driving doesn’t get more dangerous, there’s no urgent problem.

According to this way of thinking, if more people get killed every year, that just comes with the territory of a growing state where more people are driving. If this is how you approach traffic safety, stricter seat belt laws aren’t the only thing that go out the window. You can also forget about redesigning high-speed urban streets or reducing exposure to traffic by making it easier to get around without a car.

The paper ultimately concludes with the increasingly fashionable point of view that we can just wait out the problem of dangerous traffic:

At some point onboard technology in cars is likely to have a dramatic effect in reducing traffic accidents. Until then, however, it’s important that Colorado not slide backward in traffic safety.

In other words, let’s do nothing for years, until some untested technology matures and maybe saves the day. If hundreds more people lose their lives every year in the meantime, so be it. Changing the way things are is just too much trouble.

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