The state is a landscape of sharply divided contrasts. It sits on the Western edge of the Great Plains, but it rises to a plateau and boasts a major portion of the Rocky Mountains. If the lower lying land has a major feature, it would be the Colorado River, named by the Spanish because of the color given to it by the red clay silt it washes down from the mountains. Now add in the semi-desert lands, the forests and then the spectacular canyons and mesas. Now you have a picture of this dramatic land.
The transport system
In extent, it’s the eight largest land mass with a total of just under 104,000 square miles. But with a population of only 4.3 million, it only ranks as the twenty-fourth most populous state giving us 41.5 persons per square mile. As with almost all the states with major forests and mountains, 82% of the population lives in the cities and towns, particularly in and near Denver, and the federal government owns 36.5% of the land, preserving it for future generations. Because of this diversity, there’s significant climate variation. As people climb toward the Rocky Mountains, the temperature drops and the chances of rain increase. This can leave the high plains and foothills cold and wet. Along the Continental Divide, there are frequent extreme weather events. Sometimes the hail storms are dangerous with the eastern section of the plains being a part of the so-called Tornado Alley. Fortunately, the most dangerous areas are the least populated. But when the snow melts, there can be flooding and the major rivers can threaten lower lying urban areas.
Overall, there’s almost 85,500 miles of public roads, with 950 miles of interstate highway. There’s also 2,900 miles of railroad track, one light rail and one aerial tramway. Because of the substantial rivers, there are 105,000 boats registered. Completing the transport service there are 5,800 buses and 7.300 heavy trucks. Since 2001, the Colorado State Patrol has made road safety a high priority and, as a result of devoting more resources to high-visibility patrolling and well-publicized enforcement programs, the injury and death rates from traffic crashes has been reduced. Overall, the Patrol formally investigates not less than 70% of all fatal accidents. The three most common causes of accidents are excessive speed, distracted driving, and aggressive driving. Given the environment, animals wondering on to the road caused 7 deaths and 191 injuries in 2008 (the last year for which there are figures).
What do local people drive?
The population has registered 1.9 million automobiles and 1.6 million light trucks giving 80% of the people access to private transport. Perhaps not surprisingly given the history of the state and its spectacular scenery, the most popular vehicle on the roads is the Ford F-150. This full-size pickup has been the best-selling vehicle of any type in the US for the last twenty-nine years. Once you sell it into a state which can offer challenging driving conditions and the option for off-road travel, the everyday drivers preserve the dream of taking off into backcountry. It should also not surprise that the two runners-up in the popularity stakes are the Subaru Outback and the Jeep Grand Cherokee. The call of the wild still resonates with the people of this mountainous state. So when it comes to commuting, 88% drive to work either on their own or sharing a vehicle. Including taxis, 3.4% use public transport, 4% use a bicycle or walk, whilst the remaining 4% work at home.
With the law changed 2014 to permit the sale of marijuana for recreational use, there are two factors to consider:
• this can change driver behavior as more people give into the temptation to drive while under the influence;
• more out-of-state drivers may come on to local roads to shop for the drug.
For the record, it remains a criminal offense to drive while under the influence of cannabis — under federal law, it’s still classified as a prohibited drug. In Colorado, there’s been a law since 1970 making it an offense to ski or even get on to a ski lift if under the influence. So there will have to be some serious thinking done to decide how law enforcement is going to respond to the number of people who may use the ski resorts or simply drive on the public road either carrying marijuana in their vehicles or their blood. One thing already seems certain. The Colorado Tourism Office is not about to run an advertising campaign based on legalization to encourage more visitors to the state. This has not prevented local travel agencies from advertising cannabis-friendly tours, booking into ski resorts and providing legal marijuana both as food and to smoke once the skiing day is over. Obviously coaches are laid on to drive the tourists to and from the resorts. Using private transport is discouraged.
Do You Know that…
1. The name of the state is from the Spanish for “red river” — the silt washed down from the Rocky Mountains is red.
2. The state is part of Tornado Alley with extreme weather events quite common along the Continental Divide.
3. The most popular vehicles for people to buy are the Ford F-150, the Subaru Outback and the Jeep Grand Cherokee.
4. The state has legalized the sale of recreational cannabis but not changed the law about driving whilst under the influence of cannabis.
5. Colorado is one of three US states that has privatized the operation of its Car Insurance Database.
6. Colorado switched from at-fault to no-fault insurance and then back again to at-fault.
7. The DMV will suspend your driver’s license if you have failed to pay any award of damages order by a court.
8. At 14 years and 6 months, an individual can get a education permit if he or she passes the online course.
9. You qualify for free legal advice if you earn less than $14,363 per year.
10. If your BAC is between 0.05 and 0.08, the court can infer you were driving while impaired.