Summit County traffic fatalities decline amid statewide bump in road deaths

A 27-year-old man whose car lost control and fell into Dillon Reservoir in August last year was one of four Summit County traffic fatalities in 2017.
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Colorado traffic fatalities in 2017

• 2017 fatalities: 630 (compared to 547 in 2015 and 608 in 2016)

• Highest counties: El Paso (76); Adams (64), Weld (62), Denver (46)

• Motorcyclist fatalities: 101, a 20 percent decrease from 2016 (125)

• Alcohol/drug-related fatalities: 232, a 16 percent increase from 2016 (197)

• Unbelted fatalities: 211, a 14 percent increase from 2016 (182)

• Pedestrian fatalities: 93, an 11 percent increase from 2016 (84)

• Construction zone fatalities: 15, a 114 percent increase from 2016 (7)

Source: Colorado Department of Transportation

Traffic deaths are on the rise across Colorado, which saw a second straight record-setting year of road fatalities in 2017 and a 30 percent increase in the number of fatal crashes compared to 2014, according to state numbers.

The Colorado Department of Transportation said the increase easily outstripped population growth and can’t be attributed to the state’s rapidly rising population. Instead, distracted, unbelted and impaired driving were all on the rise and appeared to be the main culprits.

“We can’t lay the blame for the uptick on Colorado’s population growth,” CDOT executive director Michael Lewis said in a statement. “This comes down to poor choices many people make when driving, from not buckling up to driving impaired or using their phones.”

Summit County bucked the statewide trend with four deaths in as many fatal crashes in 2017, which was half as many traffic fatalities as the year before, when eight people were killed in six accidents. Statewide, 635 people died in accidents in 2017 compared with 587 the year before.

Three of the four Summit fatalities stemmed from drug or alcohol impairment, including an April 4, 2017 crash that killed one passenger and seriously injured the driver, Devin Cody Feltes, who was charged with felony vehicular homicide and driving under the influence. His case is currently pending in Summit County court.

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According to Colorado State Patrol records, Feltes’ car was travelling eastbound on Royal Buffalo Drive at nearly 60 mph in a 30 mph zone. The car went off the road near Lake View Drive, rolling nearly 200 feet and ejecting one of the occupants, who was killed. The man who died wasn’t wearing a seatbelt, but the two surviving occupants were.

Feltes was seriously injured and transported to the hospital, where his blood was tested and showed an alcohol content of 0.174, according to an arrest affidavit. The passenger who survived the crash told police that the three men had all been drinking and were on their way to get cigarettes but later recanted and said Feltes was the designated driver, the affidavit says.

Another alcohol-related traffic death occurred on August 31, 2017, when 27-year-old Grant Mitchell of Silverthorne lost control of his car while speeding on Swan Mountain Road and fatally crashed into Dillon Reservoir. Mitchell was wearing a seatbelt but was travelling at approximately 60 mph in a 35 mph zone and was believed to be intoxicated, according to CSP records.

That accident occurred less than a quarter-mile from another Swan Mountain Road fatality that occurred on August 10, 2017, when 68-year-old Mitchell Kaminsky drifted into the wrong lane on his motorcycle while rounding a bend and collided with an oncoming garbage truck. CSP records indicate Kaminsky was neither speeding nor intoxicated and had been wearing a helmet. The driver of the garbage truck was not impaired and crashed while trying to avoid Kaminsky.

Those two accidents occurred within weeks of each other at nearly the same spot, but they were the only two fatal crashes on Swan Mountain Road in the past decade, according to CSP records.

There were, however, three accidents causing serious bodily injuries over that time period. They involved a bicycle and a car, a motorcycle and a car and two cars in a head-on collision.

Statewide, drugs and alcohol were implicated in nearly 37 percent of all fatal crashes in 2017, up from 31 percent the year before. In total, 232 people were killed in drug- and alcohol-related crashes last year. There were also 211 unbelted fatalities, a 14 percent increase from 2016.

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Colorado’s Fifth Judicial District — covering Clear Creek, Eagle, Lake and Summit counties — has the highest number of DUI arrests per capita, according to a recent analysis of census data.

Last year, at least 204 people were arrest in Summit County on suspicion of DUI. So far this year, there have been at least eight DUI arrests in Summit, six of which occurred on New Year’s Day.

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