DENVER (AP/CBS4) – The Colorado Department of Transportation says traffic deaths rose by 10 percent last year to 545, the highest total since 2008.

Officials said Tuesday 104 of those deaths were people on motorcycles, the most ever in the state.

They say one possible reason for the increase in overall deaths is that lower gasoline prices are leading to more people traveling.

The department says nearly half the people killed in passenger vehicles weren’t wearing seat belts. Officials say that’s a disproportionately high percentage, because only about 15 percent of Coloradans don’t wear seat belts.

“Every fatality is one too many, which is why we are doubling down on our traffic safety outreach in 2016,” CDOT Executive Director Shailen Bhatt said in a statement.  “For example, we know that at least 60 lives could be saved if everyone wore their seat belts. Therefore, we will be doing additional outreach to increase the seat belt usage in Colorado.”

The department says nearly one-third of last year’s traffic deaths were alcohol-related.

“Fatal crashes are a tragic ending for hundreds of people in Colorado each year.” said Scott Hernandez, Chief of the Colorado State Patrol.  “These crashes are absolutely preventable.  We encourage drivers to make good decisions and avoid distractions while driving.  Kick off the new year by buckling up, dropping the distractions, and focusing on driving.”

Jefferson County had the most traffic deaths, with 56. Weld was second with 55, followed by Denver with 49 and El Paso with 44.

Additional Information From CDOT

Preliminary data for 2015 is available from CDOT at:

https://www.codot.gov/library/traffic/safety-crash-data/fatal-crash-data-city-county/2015-monthly-fatals/view

https://www.codot.gov/library/traffic/safety-crash-data/fatal-crash-data-city-county/fatalities-by-person-type/view

The final data for 2014, including county specific data, is available from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration at:

http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/departments/nrd-30/ncsa/STSI/8_CO/2014/8_CO_2014.htm

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