DENVER — The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) released data Monday that shows 745 people died on Colorado roads in 2022, which marks the most roadway deaths since 1981 in the state.
According to CDOT, 278 people died in 2022 as a result of impaired driving, which is almost a 60% increase from 2019. Data shows the counties with the highest number of fatalities stemming from an impaired driver were Adams (35), El Paso (21), and Denver (21) counties.
At the intersection of 98th and Federal in Denver, Renee Lund stood in the same spot where her 19-year-old son, Tanner, was killed by a suspected impaired driver in March 2022.
“He turned left on a green light, and as he was turning, someone barreled through the red light and smashed into him, and wrapped him around this pole here," Lund said, gesturing to the pole beside her, which she ensures is decorated as a memorial to her son. "In the blink of an eye, he was gone.”
Lund described Tanner as quirky, compassionate, funny and kind.
“He made an impact on the littlest kid to the oldest adult, and he's missed. We miss him. Every day, we miss something about Tanner," said Lund. “I have to learn how to live my life without Tanner, physically. But I want to always speak his name.”
The suspect in Tanner's case, Noe Menjivar Chavez, has a disposition hearing scheduled for Feb. 3. He faces two counts of vehicular homicide related to reckless driving, and one count of vehicular homicide related to DUI.
“They've been really tight lipped about everything, but I do know alcohol was involved," said Lund.
Lund said her head understands how long the judicial system takes, but her heart cannot.
“It's very hard, because every time we go there, we all are reliving this again," she said about attending the court proceedings. "A lot of us can't really move forward with any kind of healing until this is over with, and I know it still might be a while.”
Lund has complete faith in the prosecutors assigned to her son's case, but said it is terrifying how many people died in 2022 as a result of impaired driving. It's one reason she is willing to share her son's story, hoping drivers will hear it and take it to heart. Lund described it as her lifelong mission.
"I don't want Tanner to be forgotten," she said. "And the manner that he passed away... We have some serious issues with DUI deaths and I want to try to make a difference.”
Sam Cole, a communications manager with CDOT, said there are 16 new law enforcement officers from agencies across the state who are finishing training for a special certification that will help them identify what substances a driver may have consumed before getting behind the wheel. Cole said about 40% of people with DUI's have more than one substance in their system.