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By Kathy Walsh

DENVER (CBS4) – In 2016, Colorado had its deadliest year of traffic fatalities in a decade. According to the Colorado Department of Transportation, 605 people died on state roadways last year.

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

CDOT officials gave a number of reasons for the increase in traffic deaths, but it all comes down to drivers making poor choices.

“We have a problem in Colorado. We have a problem across the country,” said CDOT Executive Director Shailin Bhatt.

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

Bhatt says speed and not buckling up were two things to blame for Colorado’s 605 traffic fatalities last year. That’s up from 547 in 2015.

Three-hundred-eighty were drivers or passengers and 125 were motorcyclists, an all-time high.

At an afternoon news conference, State Patrol Chief Scott Hernandez said, “It really comes down to personal accountability.”

According to the data, most of the motorcyclists killed in 2016 were not wearing helmets.

(credit: Brighton Police Department)

(credit: Brighton Police Department)

“It’s kind of like a seat belt for your motorcycle for yourself because it can make the difference from having no injuries to having a very severe, possibly life-threatening — at least life-changing head trauma,” said Dr. James Yon, a trauma surgeon at Swedish Medical Center.

There were 84 pedestrians and 16 bicyclists killed in 2016. Both numbers are 15-year highs.

“I believe that it’s an epidemic of distracted driving,” said Bhatt.

RELATED: Colorado Joining ‘Zero Deaths’ Traffic Safety Plan

“We’re not going to get to zero without your help,” said Hernandez.

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

Last year, CDOT launched a campaign to get more people to buckle up. The department is promoting personal breathalyzers to keep the intoxicated from driving and CDOT has engineering projects in the works to try to reduce the number of crashes. But 2017 is already off to a tragic start with 33 traffic deaths in Colorado.

LINK: Toward Zero Deaths

Kathy Walsh is CBS4’s Weekend Anchor and Health Specialist. She has been with CBS4 for more than 30 years. She is always open to story ideas. Follow Kathy on Twitter @WalshCBS4.

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