Does Colorado have a helmet law for motorcyclists and passengers?
Yes, but it's not the sort of "universal" motorcycle helmet law that many states have passed.
Colorado's helmet law applies only to motorcycle operators and passengers who are under the age of 18. Specifically, it states "A person shall not operate or ride as a passenger on a motorcycle or low-power scooter on a roadway unless each person under eighteen years of age is wearing a protective helmet of a type and design manufactured for use by operators of motorcycles."
Under Colorado law, a "protective helmet" is one that has been designed to reduce head impact injuries and to remain on the rider's head, "deflecting blows, resisting penetration, and spreading the force of impact." The helmet must feature lining, padding, and a chin strap, and must meet or exceed U.S. Department of Transportation standards.
You can find the full text of this law at Colorado Revised Statutes section 42-4-1502 (link goes to home page of Colorado's statutes; click through to get to the law, starting at Title 42.)
Colorado's statute actually makes it a Class A traffic infraction for anyone to operate or ride as a passenger on a motorcycle when another person on the motorcycle is in violation of the law. In other words, you can be under 18 and wearing a helmet, or you can be over 17 and not required to wear a helmet, and you can still be cited for an infraction if the motorcycle operator or your passenger is under 18 and is not wearing a helmet.
Getting cited for a traffic infraction may not be the only thing you need to worry about if you violate Colorado's motorcycle helmet law. If you get into a motorcycle accident and end up filing a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver, any compensation the court awards you could get reduced, especially if you suffered head injuries. For the details on Colorado's shared fault rules, check out our article Colorado Car Accident Laws.
by: David Goguen, J.D.