Colorado Seat Belt use Increases to 86 Percent

Nov. 13, 2018 - State Still Below National Average of 90 Percent

STATEWIDE—Last year, there were 222 unbuckled fatalities on Colorado roads—accounting for about half of the 410 total passenger vehicle deaths in the state. According to a just-released CDOT survey, seat belt usage in Colorado increased by 2.5 percent in 2018 after three years of decline.

CDOT's 2018 State of Colorado Statewide Seat Belt Survey shows seat belt usage improved to 86.3 percent from 83.8 percent in 2017—the first improvement since 2015. Still, Colorado trails the national seat belt average of 90 percent.


"Although some counties improved, overall, the state is below the national average,"" said Darrell Lingk, director of CDOT's Office of Transportation Safety. "Colorado unfortunately lacks a primary seat belt law, so people are only cited for not wearing a seat belt when they are pulled over for another traffic violation. This results in less people buckling up."

The survey identifies use rates for 31 Colorado counties. The highest was Douglas County (95 percent) and the lowest usage was Cheyenne County (65 percent). Adams County fell to second lowest, declining to 70 percent from 80 percent in 2017. The most improved counties were Clear Creek (85 percent; +8 percent), El Paso (85 percent; +5 percent), Fremont (84 percent; +7 percent), Las Animas (92 percent; +9 percent) and Pueblo (86 percent; +7 percent).

Five of the six counties with the lowest use rates were all rural: Cheyenne (65 percent), Delta (75 percent), La Plata (76 percent), Montezuma and Chaffee (77 percent).

"Each year, this survey gives insight on where we need to focus our efforts to increase Colorado's seat belt use," said Colorado State Patrol Chief, Col. Matthew Packard. "As in past years, rural counties use seat belts less than other areas in the state. We need to improve in these regions, and all regions, to increase Colorado's seat belt use and lower passenger vehicle fatalities."

In 2017, Colorado ranked 40th in the country in seat belt use, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), meaning 39 states scored better. 2018 comparison data is not yet available. Seat belts reduce the risk of injury and death in a crash by 50 percent.

The annual State of Colorado Statewide Seat Belt Survey is required by NHTSA to estimate seat belt use. Trained surveyors observe and record seat belt use for drivers and front seat passengers only. For this survey, 132,447 vehicles and 162,096 occupants (drivers and passengers) were observed during a two-week period in June. For safety and visibility, this survey was conducted from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., and does not record seat belt use during nighttime hours. NHTSA confirms that belt use is significantly lower, and unbelted fatalities are far greater at night.

Click It or Ticket is a nationwide campaign from NHTSA. Since Click It or Ticket was introduced in Colorado in 2002, statewide seat belt use has increased from 72 percent to 86.3 percent in 2018. In May 2018, CDOT developed a series of ads featuring Coloradans promoting seat belt use.

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 younger than 18 and their passengers, regardless of their age, to 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 a primary enforcement, meaning the driver can be stopped and ticketed if an officer sees an unrestrained or improperly restrained child younger than 16 in the vehicle.