Traffic Safety Laws in Colorado

Safety Laws in Colorado

The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) enforces a variety of traffic laws to promote greater safety on CO highways.

Our Colorado Safety Laws page covers child car seat laws, plus other information related to vehicle and motorcycle safety equipment, cell-phone use, seat belts, boats and more.

Child Car Seat Laws in Colorado

Children must be restrained in boosters -- or other appropriate child car seats -- until they reach the age of 8 years old. Parents searching for an appropriate child safety seat to meet the requirements in Colorado need to make sure the car seat matches the child's weight, height and age:

  • Birth to 1 year old and less than 20 lbs: Rear-facing seat, in the back seat only (no exceptions). While this is the law in Co, most experts recommend keeping your child in a rear-facing seat until 3 years old.
    • You should never place a rear-facing child seat in the front seat of a vehicle with an active airbag; this includes single-cab pickup trucks.
  • 1 through 3 years old and at least 20 lbs: Forward-facing seat in the back seat of the vehicle.
    • Your child should remain in the forward-facing seat only until they reach the upper weight limit set by the car seat manufacturer..
  • 4 through 7 years old: Booster seat.
  • Beginning at 8 years old: Standard vehicle safety belt.
    • While CO law allows children to use a standard seat belt at 8 years old, it is recommended that you wait until your child is at least 4 ft 9 inches before transitioning to a seat belt, so as to avoid injury in case of an accident.

All child passenger safety violations are enforced as primary traffic safety laws. In other words, an officer could pull you over just for breaking a child-safety law. You face a minimum $82 fine.

Contact the Child Passenger Safety organization (CPS) to ask any questions regarding child car seat requirements or find a location that can check the safety of your child safety seat.

Child Safety Seat Installation

There are a few places you can get information and assistance with installing your child safety seat in Colorado. To start, you can view our guide on How To Install a Child Safety Seat.

If you need help installing a child safety seat in your vehicle, find an inspection station near you. Most stations offer free assistance to ensure proper seat installation.

You can also find out where to get hands-on assistance from a child passenger safety technician or locate a car seat check via the NHTSA Child Car Seat Inspection Station Locator.

Electronic Devices & Texting Laws in Colorado

If you are under 18 years old or driving with a learner's permit, it is illegal for you to use a cell phone while driving. The most common exceptions to this are if:

  • You need to report an emergency situation.
  • If you have first parked your vehicle before using your phone.
    • See below for a complete list.

Remember, it is illegal for drivers of all ages to text while behind the wheel in Colorado.

Cell Phone Use Exceptions

During certain emergencies, Colorado law allows the use of cell phones while operating a vehicle. You may use a wireless telephone on the road in the following situations:

  • You have reason to fear for your life or safety.
  • You witness a criminal act or believe one may occur.
  • To report a fire, traffic accident, road hazards, and medical or hazardous materials.
  • To report a person driving in a reckless, careless or unsafe manner.

Electronic device use is also permitted in designated parking areas or the shoulder lane.

DMV.ORG Tip...

When you receive a call or text on your cell phone while driving your vehicle, you should be able to find a safe place to pull over or wait until you reach your destination to respond. Having awareness at all times will make a big impact on the overall safety of our roads.

Taking these simple precautions can significantly reduce the risk of an accident.

Colorado Electronic Device Ticket Fees

If an officer cites you for a violation, you will be subject to penalties and fees.

In the state of Colorado, your first cell-phone citation will result in a $50 fine, and $100 for subsequent violations. Other surcharges may apply.

CO Seat Belt Laws

Seat belts are mandatory for drivers and all front-seat passengers in Colorado.

You cannot be pulled over in Colorado for not wearing your seat belt. However, if you're pulled over for a different traffic violation such as speeding or zooming through a stop sign, a seat belt violation will cost you an extra $71 minimum for adults. If your child is unrestrained, you'll be fined $82.

There are several exceptions to the Colorado seatbelt requirement. Those include:

  • Operating a vehicle manufactured before July 1, 1968 – the year seat belts became a federal requirement.
  • Passengers with a physical or psychological disability preventing the use of a safety belt. NOTE: If pulled over, an officer will request a medical statement explaining the disability and the reason why a seat belt is not suitable for you.)

Visit our Tickets and Traffic School Guide for more information if an officer cites you.

Colorado Motorcycle & Bicycle Laws

Motorcycle & Bicycle Helmet Laws

Motorcycle Helmets

In the state of Colorado, only motorcycle riders under 18 years old must wear a DOT-approved helmet.

Even though the state does not require the use of helmets for motorcycle riders older than 18 years old, wearing one could save your life or help prevent severe head injuries. During 2006, 65% of fatal motorcycle accidents occurred in states without all-rider helmet laws, according to the NHTSA.

Take a moment to check out our article on How to Buy the Right Helmet to help you decide which helmet is right for you.

Bicycle Helmets

There are NO mandatory helmet laws for bicyclists in Colorado.

Motorcycle Protective Gear

Colorado law requires motorcycle riders and passengers to wear some form of eye protection. The visor on helmets provides the best protection, but goggles or eyeglasses with lenses made from safety glass or plastic offer adequate protection. Also, you should never wear tinted eye protection at night.

Motorcycle windshields do NOT offer adequate protection.

Motorcycle Driving & Passenger Laws

Passing / Overtaking

  • Passing or overtaking a vehicle in the same lane is forbidden in Colorado.
  • Motorcyclists may not share lanes with other vehicles, but can ride abreast with another motorcyclist.


As a motorcycle rider in Colorado, you cannot attach yourself or your motorcycle to any other vehicle on the road.

If you would like more information on how to safely ride a motorcycle, view our page on Tips for a Safe Ride.

Also, every motorcycle rider should read the entire Colorado Motorcycle Rider Handbook.

Passenger Laws

  • The state of Colorado requires passengers to ride behind the motorcycle driver or in a sidecar. Passengers should NEVER sit in front of the driver.
  • Motorcycles must be equipped with footrests for passengers, and passengers must use them.

Other Motorcycle & Bicycle Safety Information


A white headlight on the front of your bicycle is required while riding at night. Daytime-running headlights for motorcycles are NOT required in Colorado.

Please see “Colorado Headlight Laws" below for more information.

Motorcycle Safety Courses

Completing a Motorcycle Safety Foundation training course in Colorado offers more than one benefit. Not only does the course get you up to speed on information you really need to know to ride a motorcycle in Colorado, but it also exempts you from taking the written and driving exams at the DMV.

The DMV would simply require you to submit your MSF certification card, and pay all applicable licensing fees on your new license.

Colorado Headlight Laws

Please follow the headlight law for your particular vehicle:

  • Automobiles: Headlights on before sunrise and after sunset, and when visibility is limited to 1,000 feet or less due to weather conditions.
  • Motorcycles: Daytime headlights not required; headlight on before sunrise and after sunset.
  • Snowmobiles: When operated before sunrise and after sunset:
    • At least 1 headlight.
    • At least 1 red taillight.
  • Bicycles: White headlight on the front of your bicycle while riding before sunrise and after sunset.

Boating Laws in CO

While spending a nice day in the sun on your boat, sailboat, canoe, kayak or raft, please take all necessary safety measures to ensure a risk-free boating experience.

Read the information below to figure out how to be safe, and consider getting an online insurance quote for your boat or personal watercraft.

Minimum Safety Requirements for Recreational Boats

A personal flotation device (PFD) is an essential item and required on every kind of boat. You must carry 1 wearable PFD for each person on board.

If the boat is longer than 16 feet in length, an additional throwable device is required.

As of July 1, 2003, children 12 years old and under are required to wear a PFD whenever their vessel is on the water, except when they are in an enclosed cabin or below deck.

View the following PDF document to find out about minimum safety equipment requirements for recreational boats.

Boat Safety Inspections

Inspections help ensure you're prepared for a safe and enjoyable day on the water. Conveniently, you may request an inspection at any time. Boat rangers frequently conduct courtesy safety inspections at boat ramps on all Colorado waters.

Be sure your vessel complies with equipment regulations, which include navigational lighting and appropriate water-skiing flags, among others.

All the items in the list below are checked during Colorado boat-safety inspections.

For Motorized Vessels and Sailboats:

  • A U.S. Coast Guard-approved personal flotation device (PFD) for each person on board that must be the appropriate size, accessible and serviceable.
  • A whistle, horn, or air horn.
  • A fire extinguisher (charged / serviceable).
  • A Type IV throwable PFD on board (if vessel is 16 feet or longer).
  • Valid registration.

For Personal Watercrafts (PWC)

  • A U.S. Coast Guard-approved personal flotation device (PFD) that is the proper size and worn by each person on board.
  • Properly attached cut-off lanyard (if equipped).
  • A whistle, horn, or air horn.
  • A fire extinguisher (charged / serviceable).
  • Valid registration.

For Canoes, Kayaks or Rafts

  • A U.S. Coast Guard-approved personal flotation device (PFD) for each person on board that must be the appropriate size, accessible and serviceable.
  • The vessel must be marked with the owner's name and address.
  • A whistle, horn, or air horn.
  • Rafts on Colorado waters must be double chambered.

Boating Safety Courses

The Colorado Boating Safety Program is required for individuals who are 14 to 18 years old to lawfully operate a boat in Colorado, but can also be helpful for boaters of all ages or experience levels.

Boat operator cards are issued to students who attend the review session and pass the final exam.

Browse the class schedule for the Boat Safety Course.

More Information You Need To Know:

  • The certification fee is $15 per student, payable at the class.
  • Each student must bring a 1-by-1 inch front-facing photo, which will later be laminated onto his or her operator card.
  • Boaters older than 16 years old may also take an online boat safety class.
  • Make sure to participate in a class that offers approved content from the State of Colorado and NASBLA. Those include BoatEd, BoaterExam, and BoatU.S.

The Boat Safety class helps create safer boaters, and could save you 10-15% on your boat insurance.

Unattended Children or Pets in CO

Currently, there are no Colorado laws against leaving kids or pets unattended in cars. However, if you suspect an unattended child is in danger, dial 911 and remain with the vehicle in question.

If you suspect an unattended pet is in danger, call your local police department or animal control unit.

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