CDOT pushes motorcycle safety as riding season revs up


A woman riding a motorcycle

Courtesy of Colorado Department of Transportation

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

“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  

A chart of Colorado motorcyclist facilities from 2019 through 2023

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.

About CDOT 

The Colorado Department of Transportation’s mission is to provide the best multi-modal transportation system that most effectively and safely moves people, goods and information. CDOT maintains more than 23,000 lane miles of highway, more than 3,400 bridges and 35 mountain passes. Our team of employees works tirelessly to reduce the rate and severity of crashes and improve the safety of all modes of transportation. CDOT leverages partnerships with a range of private and public organizations and operates Bustang, an interregional express bus service. Find more details at codot.gov.