DENVER (AP) – Colorado joined a national effort Monday to reduce traffic deaths dramatically – all the way to zero.

And Gov. John Hickenlooper used the event to step up pressure on lawmakers to send him a bill to make some DUI convictions a felony.

Colorado State Patrol and state transportation officials are starting a campaign called “Toward Zero Deaths.” The effort includes public safety awareness efforts, such as reminders to drivers not to send text messages while driving.

Hickenlooper conceded the campaign is aspirational. Colorado had 480 traffic deaths last year, down from 548 in 2008.

But the governor said it’s helpful to make a renewed push for traffic safety to remind folks that traffic fatalities shouldn’t be viewed as commonplace.

“They’ve somehow become part of the daily landscape that we all expect,” Hickenlooper said. “‘Toward Zero Deaths’ is a way to shake this up a little bit.”

The campaign aims to reduce Colorado’s traffic fatalities to 416 a year by 2019.

Hickenlooper used the announcement to again call on lawmakers to pass a felony DUI bill to step up penalties for repeat drunken drivers.

The bill has stalled for years but now has the governor’s backing. Its first hearing is scheduled in a House committee Wednesday.

“Our job is to separate people who made a mistake from people who have a serious problem,” Hickenlooper said.

Asked afterward whether he’d veto a bill pending in the Legislature to ban red-light cameras, the governor repeated his opposition to such an idea.

The “Toward Zero Deaths” campaign announcement was light on details but could include TV spots, additional education about texting while driving and research on improving safety among older drivers.

Nationwide, the chances of a driver dying in a crash in a late-model car or light truck fell by more than a third over three years, and nine car models had zero deaths per million registered vehicles, according to study released in January by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

There was an average of 28 driver deaths per million registered vehicle years through the 2012 calendar year, down from 48 deaths for 2008 models through 2009.

LINK: House Bill 1043

– By Kristen Wyatt, AP Writer

(© Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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