State officials say impaired driving rises in July, yet trend isn’t mirrored in Summit County |

State officials say impaired driving rises in July, yet trend isn’t mirrored in Summit County

A volunteer demonstrates a field sobriety test with Summit County Sheriff's Office Sgt. Mark Gafari during a simulated DUI traffic stop Jan. 8, 2020, in Breckenridge. July is Colorado’s peak month for crashes caused by impaired drivers, the Colorado Department of Transportation said, but the trends aren't found in Summit County.
Liz Copan/

July is Colorado’s peak month for crashes caused by impaired drivers, the Colorado Department of Transportation said. Numbers normally rise during the warm months, CDOT said, but Summit County Sheriff Jaime FitzSimons said Summit County doesn’t have such trends.

The county has seen a drop in reported impaired drivers year over year since 2019, although FitzSimons said that 2022 is on track to surpass 2021. In 2019, the Sheriff’s Office reported 192 instances of impaired driving. That number dropped to 135 in 2020 and to 121 in 2021, according to data from the Sheriff’s Office. As of Thursday, July 14, this year already has 92 incidents.

According to the Colorado State Patrol, Summit County wasn’t among the top five counties for impaired driving in 2021.

FitzSimons said increased staffing, in addition to state and federal funding, impact the numbers of impaired drivers caught. The more deputies go looking for impaired driving, the more they see it, he said, and as a result, it’s hard to say if Summit County has a peak DUI season.

According to CDOT, Colorado has seen a 44% increase in the number of fatalities involving an impaired driver since 2019. From 2019 to 2021, Colorado State Patrol reported in a news release that it investigated over 1,750 crashes — some fatal — caused by impaired drivers.

“Last year, troopers investigated 14 fatal car crashes and an additional 42 with serious injuries during the month of July that were caused by impaired drivers,” Colorado State Patrol Chief Matthew Packard said in the release. “We are imploring drivers who have taken the risk of taking substances and driving in the past to change their behavior.”

According to statistics compiled by the Colorado State Patrol, 60.5% of at-fault impaired drivers involved in a crash were wearing their seat belts. Statistics from CDOT’s 2022 Driver Behavior Survey showed 89% of all drivers self-report wearing a seat belt when driving.

“When you pause to consider that the majority of impaired drivers involved a serious injury or fatal crash make the choice to wear a seat belt for their own personal protection but don’t make a choice to plan a sober ride for the protection of others, you begin to appreciate the selfishness of this behavior,” Packard said in the release.

CDOT’s annual survey revealed that one of every five respondents reported driving a motor vehicle within two hours of consuming alcohol. Fewer Coloradans, however, believe that they would receive a DUI for driving under the influence of cannabis (54%) than alcohol (70%).

Drivers who reported driving within two hours of consuming alcohol or using their cell phone while driving said they exceeded the speed limit more frequently than others.

Of those who responded to CDOT’s survey, 21% said they drove a motor vehicle within two hours of drinking alcohol in the last 30 days, and 2% said they did this on six or more of those days.

Of respondents, 7% said they used cannabis and 3% said they used prescription medication capable of impairing their judgment within two hours of driving.

Data showed 9% of respondents said they “somewhat or strongly agreed” that they could drive safely under the influence of alcohol. That’s down slightly from 15% in 2021, CDOT reported. 

As in previous years, Colorado drivers thought people would be more likely to get a DUI if they drove under the influence of alcohol than cannabis. Data showed 70% thought they’d get a DUI while under the influence of alcohol, while only 54% said the same about cannabis.

CDOT’s 2022 survey of Colorado residents assessed trends in traffic safety and attempted to better understand the attitudes and behaviors of Colorado’s drivers. Questions included self-reported driver behaviors on impaired driving, distracted driving, speeding and seat belt use.

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