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CDOT: Teen drivers killed on Colorado roadways up 53% from this time last year

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Posted at 10:30 AM, Oct 15, 2023
and last updated 2023-10-15 12:30:25-04

DENVER — The Colorado Department of Transportation released on Sunday some grim numbers related to teen drivers and urged parents to get involved.

CDOT said 61 teen drivers have died so far this year on the road, up 53% from this time last year. Also concerning is the number of fatal crashes that involve teen drivers. So far this year, 73 roadway fatalities have involved a teen driver, up 33% from this time last year.

The transportation agency said according to crash data, more than 16,000 teenagers between the ages of 15-19 have been involved in crashes in Colorado so far this year.

“Driving is a pivotal rite of passage, but it comes with tremendous responsibility,” said Col. Matthew C. Packard, chief of the Colorado State Patrol, in a news release. “The stakes are high, as young drivers often underestimate the risks they face on the road. Unfortunately, we've seen a distressing increase in teen fatalities on our roads. These statistics emphasize the need for education, awareness and parental involvement.”

The Lakewood Police Department told Denver7 last month that the increase in teen driver deaths can be attributed to three behaviors: Distracted driving, aggressive driving, and driving under the influence.

According to the Colorado State Patrol, the most common citations among teen drivers are speeding, careless driving and not wearing a seatbelt.

CDOT is asking parents to play an active role in keeping teens safe on the road.

“Teen drivers face unique challenges, including inexperience, distractions and peer pressure,” said CDOT’s Office of Transportation Safety Director Darrell Lingk in a news release. “We urge parents and guardians to play an active role in guiding their teens to become responsible drivers. By setting clear ground rules, modeling good driving behavior, and having ongoing conversations about the dangers of distracted driving, impaired driving and speeding, we can help our young drivers make smart decisions and protect themselves and others on the road."

A Broomfield mother shared her story of loss with Denver7 last week in hopes her painful experience can serve as a life-saving reminder. Tami DePalma lost her 17-year-old son, Dominic DePalma, to an impaired driver in Windsor on July 28, 2022.

Broomfield mother of teen killed in DUI crash speaks out

"I got a phone call from one of his friends that said 'You need to get to the hospital, something happened,'" DePalma remembered. “When you walk into a situation like that you think you're walking into, okay, what are we going to do to save his life? But we didn't realize that's not what we were there for.”

Dominic passed away just hours after the crash.

“There were five boys [in the car]. One of them had been drinking and chose to drive," DePalma said. “He ran a red light, and they were hit by a truck. A large truck.”

Dominic was in the backseat of the car, according to his mother.

“You don't really heal from the death of a child. You just learn how to live your life and move ahead, even though the sadness is inside of you," DePalma said.

DePalma firmly believes adults should lead by example when it comes to combating dangerous teen driving.

"Kids are going to do what their parents do, so let's make sure we're having designated drivers and watching what we do," she said. “I don't really know how to make a change besides talk to hordes of people and say 'it can happen to you.'”

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