County’s death rate fell in 2008

If you’re the glass-half-full kind of person, this may come as good news: Fewer people died in Mesa County in 2008, compared to the year before.

“This decrease was mostly due to a significant drop in the number of motor vehicle accidents last year,” Mesa County Coroner Dean Havlik said.

In 2008, 21 people died from motor vehicle crashes, while 45 died in wrecks the year before in Mesa County.

A total of 1,268 people died in Mesa County in 2008, which is down from 1,351 people who died in 2007, according to a report released this week by the Coroner’s Office.

Havlik said his office began releasing a report in 2007, mostly to have quick answers to questions from researchers about the area’s death rate.

Mesa County’s suicide rates dipped but remain among the highest in the state, Havlik said.

There were 39 suicides in 2008, compared to 43 in 2007.

“The suicide numbers are always interesting to everyone,” Havlik said. “We always have high numbers.”

While the numbers of the county’s deaths decreased from the previous year, the coroner’s office investigated more of the deaths, 475 in 2008, compared to 455 in 2007.

The office investigates deaths for a number of reasons, including ones that are sudden or unexpected and those that occur under violent and suspicious circumstances.

Havlik attributed an increase in homicides, nine in 2008, compared with six the year before, to a general population increase. The total numbers of homicides are low considering Mesa County’s population, which was estimated at 135,000 in 2007, he said.

Trooper Ron Greasley of the Colorado State Patrol said increased enforcement of targeted areas may contribute to fewer deaths on the road. Also there may have been fewer people on area roads last year when gas prices hit record highs, well above $4 per gallon. Despite the higher gas prices, Greasley said it doesn’t seem to translate into motorists slowing down.

Greasley said troopers currently are targeting De Beque Canyon as their primary focus for speeders and traffic safety, and the Interstate 70 Business Loop is their second priority.


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