Why are Colorado Drivers So Bad?

Traffic swells are common on I-70, especially during the weekend and when wrecks occur. (stock image).

If there’s one thing that seems to annoy Coloradans more than anything else, it’s other drivers on the road. With ski season ramping up, let’s take a look at this topic. Keep in mind, this post will have plenty of my own opinions in it. Feel free to voice your own opinions in the comment section.

You might be wondering why we’re posing this question in the first place. When we asked our Instagram audience about how they felt regarding Colorado drivers, 3 out of 4 respondents felt like Colorado drivers were “bad.” Here are a few of the most common suggestions as to why it’s so frustrating to drive on Colorado roads.

1. Everyone drives too fast.

A high speed limit of 75 miles per hour in many places puts most on some of the fastest roads they’ve ever encountered. In many states, you won’t find any speed limit over 70. Couple this with the fact that many roads here aren’t straight and flat, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. Colorado actually ranks 8th among the states for high-speed traffic fatalities, which probably isn’t a surprise to most.

2. The roads are too crazy.

Compared to most places around the country, Colorado has some pretty dangerous roads. They tend to wind up and down mountains, often with no guardrails – it can be enough to put a seasoned driver on edge. If people are too concerned about the safety of the road itself, there’s a good chance they might be a bit distracted when it comes to other drivers.

3. The “Melting Pot” theory

This one is often summed up in one of two quotes – either “no one knows how to drive” or “everyone is a transplant.” Because Colorado is pulling in a ton of new residents from all around the country, there’s probably more variance in driving styles on the road than there would be in most places. While most people probably “know how to drive,” they’ve probably been taught different driving styles, whether it’s the slow-and-friendly Midwest approach or the fast-and-furious approach from New England. It’s not that one of these styles is undeniably better than the other, it’s just that they’re different. Having so many styles meeting for the first time on a high-speed road isn’t the best idea. To me, this one makes the most sense.

4. Too many tourists.

Because so many tourists come to Colorado for its outdoor recreation, there are undoubtedly a lot of tourists on the Colorado roadways. It’s hard to deny that drivers unfamiliar with the roads and local driving style are more of a risk than those who drive the roads every day. I wasn’t able to find any specific numbers that support this hunch, but I’d guess that a higher rate of tourists get in accidents compared to the locals when adjusted for time spent on the roads, particularly around the winter season.

5. The weather is too intense.

Colorado weather can change at the drop of a dime, demanding that drivers in the Centennial State master operating their vehicle in a wide range of environments. From window-shattering hail to torrential downpours to piles of powder, a Colorado driver has to be able to handle it all. Unfortunately, that’s not something they can really teach in driver’s education. Generally, these skills have to come with experience.

6. Everyone is drunk or high.

This one tends to get brought up on the OutThere Colorado comments the most, so it should be addressed.

According to Statewise, Colorado actually ranks on the lower end of the spectrum in impaired driving deaths when compared to other states, 34th to be exact. Knowing that stat, it’s hard to argue that impaired driving is what’s causing any sort of notable difference between drivers in Colorado and other states, especially considering that Colorado ranks so high in high-speed fatalities at the same time.

The verdict is definitely still out on whether or not legal marijuana is making Colorado’s roads more dangerous simply because enough time has yet to pass for there to be enough data to analyze. Here’s an article that touches on a lot of the available related numbers.

7. The roads are overcrowded

Colorado is booming in population in recent years, and the roads have yet to catch up. This means that traffic is reaching a surge unlike ever before – just try to drive to the mountains on a sunny Saturday. With crowding on the roadways comes heated tempers and boredom – two things that can result in dangerous driving. More cars on the road also mean less margin for error.

But really, why are Colorado drivers that bad?

It’s hard to put a finger on a specific “why,” but it’s undeniably easy to get frustrated on Colorado roads. Based on the statistics, it’s probably not the impairment, as Colorado ranks low there. It’s also probably not the number of accidents – Colorado ranks  36th. So, what is it?

Most likely, it’s our failure to obey traffic laws. Colorado ranks 5th among the states when it comes to breaking the rules on the road. Things like failure to use a traffic signal or merging incorrectly can be big causes of frustration around the Centennial State.

In reality, Colorado drivers aren’t actually that bad, especially considering the crazy driving conditions around the state. Coloradans are just frustrating to be on the road with thanks to a blend of driving styles, overcrowding, and our inability to follow the rules.

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