CDOT pushes motorcycle safety as riding season revs up

News Release

April 29, 2024 - Colorado - May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month

CDOT insiste en la seguridad motociclística con la llegada del clima propicio para manejar este tipo de vehículo en español

Statewide — May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month and the Colorado Department of Transportation is revving up its efforts to protect riders as they hit the road in greater numbers. Although motorcycle deaths decreased slightly in 2023, the safety of these vulnerable road users remains a top concern, especially as motorcycle crashes tend to peak during the summer months. Therefore, CDOT is offering these tips to riders - as well as drivers of cars - to keep motorcyclists safe.

Wear helmets

Last year, 134 motorcyclists were killed on Colorado roads — a 10% decrease from 2022, which was the deadliest year on record for motorcyclists. Of those 134 deaths, half of the riders (67) were not wearing a helmet. In 2021, Colorado had the second-highest rate of motorcycle deaths in the country based on data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Motorcycle fatalities from 2019 to 2023. In 2019 there were 103 fatalities, 140 in 2020, 137 in 2021, 149 in 2022, and 134 in 2023.
A CDOT data graph depicting motorcycle fatalities from 2019 to 2023.
In 2019 there were 103 fatalities, 140 in 2020, 137 in 2021, 149 in 2022, and 134 in 2023.
The data was collected from the CDOT crash database.

"Wearing a helmet can mean the difference between a minor injury and a catastrophic one," said CDOT’s Office of Transportation Safety Director Darrell Lingk. "A rider without a helmet is extremely vulnerable to a permanent or life-altering injury in a crash. Wear a helmet and other protective gear to make it home safely to your family."

According to a 2023 survey, 74% of motorcyclists in Colorado wear a helmet every time they ride; however, a majority of riders do not regularly wear high-visibility gear. Helmets remain the primary countermeasure to reduce serious injury and motorcycle fatalities.

Keep speeds down and never ride impaired

Data from NHTSA shows that speed and alcohol are large contributing factors in motorcycle crashes. The detrimental effects of alcohol and drugs, including certain prescribed medications, on judgment, coordination, and alertness are well-documented, posing significant risks to motorcycle riders.

Between 2021 and 2023, 26% of motorcycle traffic deaths involved an impaired rider. Impairment decreases reaction time and the special skills needed to ride. Because it is often impossible to predict the actions of other vehicles, riders should ride sober, every trip, every time.

Get trained

For every rider, both new and experienced, training and endorsements help motorcyclists ride safely, further, and stay alive. The Colorado State Patrol’s Motorcycle Operator Safety Training (MOST) is the best option for getting a motorcycle endorsement. Riders who pass a MOST class can simply take their completion card to a state driver’s license office to get an endorsement with no further testing needed.

"Just one error can lead to tragic outcomes. Riders with proper training are typically involved in fewer and less severe crashes,” said Col. Matthew C. Packard, chief of the Colorado State Patrol. “Dedicate yourself to abiding by traffic laws and enhancing your safety by honing your skills through training."

To learn more about CSP’s MOST program, or find a course near you, click here.

Drivers need to do their part too

Drivers of cars and trucks pose an enormous threat to motorcycles given the weight and size of such vehicles. Therefore, drivers need to keep their distance from motorcycles in order to avoid a crash. This is especially important when following behind a motorcycle. Intersections are particularly dangerous since drivers of passenger vehicles sometimes fail to see oncoming motorcycles.

Additionally, drivers must remain focused and avoid distractions. Texting, eating or changing the radio while driving diverts eyes from the road and increases the risk of a crash. By staying focused and eliminating distractions, drivers can better anticipate and react to the presence of motorcycles, making the roads safer for everyone.

New law protects motorcyclists

On April 4, Senate Bill 24-079 on lane filtering was signed into law, permitting motorcycles to pass between vehicles stopped on the roadway. The law becomes effective Aug. 7, 2024, and when in place, motorcyclists may pass or overtake other vehicles if:

  • The other vehicles are stopped, such as waiting at a traffic light.
  • The lanes used to ride between cars are wide enough for safe passing.
  • The motorcycle, when passing, does not exceed 15 miles per hour.
  • When stopped vehicles begin to move, the motorcyclist shall cease passing.

CDOT will complete a report on Lane Filtering by the beginning of 2027. The report will include information on motorcycle rear-end crashes, the severity of rear-end crashes in heavy traffic and motorcycle side-swipe crashes while overtaking or passing at a rate of less than fifteen miles per hour before and after the effective date of the law.