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Buckle Up for Safety, Everybody Buckle Up! Colorado Seatbelt Law

Bell & Pollock Blog

Dana N. Miller, Esq. for 03/29/2024

You’ve likely heard of, or seen on overhead highway digital signs, “Click It or Ticket” and other similar campaigns encouraging drivers and passengers to wear seatbelts on Colorado roads.  But you may have wondered what does the law actually require in regard to seatbelts.  How does wearing or not wearing a seatbelt affect your claim in an auto accident? 

Colorado Law

Colorado law on seatbelt use can be found at Colorado Revised Statutes § 42-4-237. This law states that every driver and front seat passenger in a motor vehicle must wear a seatbelt while the vehicle is being operated on a street or highway in Colorado. Any driver or front seat passenger commits a Class B Traffic Infraction by not wearing a seatbelt.  However, a driver may not be cited for only this infraction.  The driver must have been stopped by law enforcement for another alleged traffic violation in order to be cited by law enforcement for the seat belt violation. 

Colorado law also requires all passengers under age 16 to be restrained while the vehicle is being operated, either by a seatbelt if the child is over eight (8) years of age, or by a child restraint system if the child is under eight (8) years of age. Restraint systems for children under eight (8) years of age are controlled by the child’s age and/or weight. This statute can be found at C.R.S.  § 42-4-236. 

Seatbelts and Auto Accident Cases

If you are involved in an auto accident and you weren’t wearing your seatbelt, your case could be impacted.  The Colorado Statute that requires seatbelts to be worn also states that evidence of a failure to comply with the rule can be used in court to mitigate or lessen the damages associated with pain and suffering. This means that a jury could determine that your pain and suffering is less valuable, and less compensable, because you were not wearing a seatbelt.  There are no rules limiting how much a jury may reduce pain and suffering damages. 

Evidence of your failure to wear a seatbelt cannot be used to reduce your economic damages - meaning your medical bills and/or lost wages - nor can it be used to reduce your recovery for damages such as disfigurement and/or disability. 

Facts and Statistics

  • The national estimate of seat belt use during the day by adult front-seat passengers in 2023 was 91.9%.  
  • In 2021, more than one person on average died per hour (11,813 total people) while not wearing seat belts in passenger vehicle crashes.
  • Among young adults 18 to 34 killed while riding in passenger vehicles in 2021, more than half (59%) were completely unrestrained — one of the highest percentages for all age groups. 
  • Men make up the majority of those killed in motor vehicle traffic crashes. Men are also overrepresented in unrestrained fatalities, with 54 percent of men (8,367 people) and 42 percent of women (3,428 people) dying without a seat belt in passenger vehicle crashes in 2021. 
  • Vehicle type: There seems to be a misconception among those who drive and ride in pickup trucks that their large vehicles will protect them better than other vehicles would in a crash. The numbers say otherwise: 61% of pickup truck occupants who were killed in 2021 were not buckled. That’s compared to 47% of passenger car occupants who were not wearing seat belts when they were killed. Regardless of vehicle type, using a seat belt is the single most effective way to stay alive in a crash.
  • Seating position: Too many people wrongly believe they are safe in the back seat, unrestrained. Fifty percent of all front-seat passenger vehicle occupants killed in crashes in 2021 were unrestrained, but 57% of those killed in back seats were unrestrained.
  • Rural versus urban locations: People who live in rural areas might believe their crash exposure is lower, but in 2021, there were 11,922 passenger vehicle fatalities in rural locations, compared to 11,683 fatalities in urban locations. Out of those fatalities, 51% of those killed in rural locations were not wearing their seat belts, compared to 49% in urban locations. 
  • More people die unrestrained in passenger vehicle crashes at night (6,491) than during the day (5,205). In addition, a higher percentage of fatalities that occur at night are unrestrained (57%) than during the day (43%).

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration https://www.trafficsafetymarketing.gov/safety-topics/seat-belt-safety#4341

Some other information available on the NHTSA’s website suggests that: 

  1. Wearing a seatbelt is the single most effective thing you can do to protect yourself in a crash, whether you are a driver or passenger.
  2. Airbags are designed to work with seatbelts, but they in no way replace wearing a seatbelt. 
  3. Wearing a seatbelt properly, with the lap and shoulder belt secured across the pelvis and rib cage, can better withstand crash forces. 
  4. Special seatbelt safety guides exist for children and pregnant women. https://www.nhtsa.gov/vehicle-safety/seat-belts

In short, you should buckle your seatbelt each trip you take and every time you get into a motor vehicle and advise your passengers to do the same! Not only are seatbelts important to wear because they can save lives, but they are important for your auto accident case as well.  For these reasons, every time you get behind the wheel or are a passenger in a vehicle, you must do your best to fasten your seatbelt.  You never know what might happen if you fail to do so. 

If you’ve been injured by the carelessness of another driver, whether you were wearing a seatbelt or not, contact one of our experienced lawyers at the Law Firm of Bell & Pollock to establish your Legal Game Plan™.

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