As Many Take to the Roads, CDOT Study Shows More Buckling Up

November 24, 2015 - Statewide Transportation Plan - State Usage Rate Still Below National Average.

STATEWIDE — There is good news as Coloradans take to the roadways this Thanksgiving. A new study on seat belt usage conducted for the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) reveals that 85.2 percent of roadway users are buckling up. Although an improvement from last year’s survey, which found an 82.4 percent use rate, Colorado is still below the national average of 87 percent.

Denver County recorded one of the lowest use rates at 73.7 percent.  This is almost 10 percent lower than last year’s rate of 83.1 percent.

“The three percent improvement over last year is significant and shows that CDOT’s seat belt education and enforcement programs are working,” said Carol Gould, Highway Safety Manager for CDOT. “That said, our usage rate is still below average, so outreach will continue until 100 percent of Coloradoans are buckling up.”

CDOT works with law enforcement agencies on three Click It or Ticket (CIOT) enforcement periods each year. Since CIOT started in Colorado in 2002, seat belt use in Colorado has increased from 72 percent to 85.2 percent in 2015.

Vans and SUV’s had the highest usage rates at 89.2 percent and 89.9 percent respectively. Pickup trucks and commercial vehicles had the lowest usage rate at 77.6 percent and 73.9 percent respectively. Urban counties in the Front Range generally have higher usage rates. Rural counties on the Western Slope and Eastern Plains generally have lower usage rates. These rural counties also have a higher proportion of pickup trucks, which tend to have lower seat belt use rates.  

With a usage rate of 96 percent, Summit County remains the county with the highest usage rate. Other counties over 90 percent include El Paso, Grand, La Plata, Larimer, Logan and Montezuma. Counties with low usage rates include Denver (73.7 percent), Pueblo (70.8 percent) and Delta (70.8 percent). Baca, a rural county in the eastern plains, had the lowest usage rate of 67.1 percent.

A team of trained observers at 715 sites in 29 counties made the direct observations. A total of 117,889 vehicles were observed, including cars, vans, sport utility vehicles (SUVs), pickup trucks and select commercial vehicles (10,000 pounds and under). Drivers and front seat outboard passengers of the eligible vehicles were observed for seat belt usage. The observations took place from May 31 through June 13, 2015. The 29 counties surveyed represent 85 percent of the crash-related fatalities in the State.

CDOT contracted with The Institute of Transportation Management at Colorado State University to conduct the survey. 

Colorado’s Seat Belt Laws

  • Adults — Colorado has a secondary enforcement law for adult drivers and front-seat passengers. Drivers can be ticketed for violating the seat belt law if they are stopped for another traffic violation. 
  • Teens — Colorado’s Graduated Drivers Licensing (GDL) law requires all drivers under 18 and their passengers, no matter what their age, wear seat belts. This is a primary enforcement, meaning teens can be pulled over simply for not wearing a seat belt or having passengers without seat belts.
  • Children — Colorado's child passenger safety law is primary enforcement, meaning the driver can be stopped and ticketed if an officer sees an unrestrained or improperly restrained child under age 16 in the vehicle.

In 2014, 156 people who weren’t buckled up lost their lives in traffic crashes on Colorado roadways. If everyone had buckled up, nearly half of the victims would have lived. Nationally, seat belts saved an estimated 12,584 lives in 2013. An additional 2,800 lives could have been saved if all unrestrained passenger vehicle occupants five and older involved in fatal crashes had been properly restrained. For more information about seat belt safety and enforcement citation numbers, visit