Common Traffic Law Violations in Colorado

Written by Jeremy D. Earle, JD

February 4, 2023

Here Are Common Law Violations that Cause Accidents

If you were injured in a car accident in Colorado, you might be able to sue for damages to recoup your losses from the accident and injuries. To win your case, you usually have to prove negligence. While another driver breaking a traffic rule does not always imply negligence, it does provide evidence of negligence. However, some infractions are immediately regarded as evidence of negligence.

According to data from the Colorado Department of Highway Safety and Motor Cars FLHSMV, this guide describes the most common moving violations, including some criminal traffic law violations. It also explains how to prove negligence in Colorado car accidents and when traffic violations can be used as proof of negligence.

The following traffic law violations were taken from Colorado’s Uniform Traffic Citation Statistics’ most recent year of data. Each citation issued by the FLHSMV is kept on file, along with information about the violation’s outcome. This list excludes any licensing violations, such as driving while suspended or without a license, and is broken down into moving and criminal traffic violations. The violations are listed from the most to the least number of tickets issued by law enforcement in 2018, but the trends are consistent with previous years.


Many of the top causes of motor car accidents in Colorado are strongly linked to these top moving violations:


Although some traffic citations were issued in 2018 for failing to exercise due care and driving too fast for the conditions, most of the tickets issued by Colorado law enforcement agencies were for speeding violations. Speeding tickets accounted for 35% of the nearly 1.9 million total violations, while only 0.26 percent were issued for driving too fast for the conditions. When drivers lose control of their car, speeding can cause an accident, but the damage caused by speeding is more important. Speeding causes more property damage, more serious injuries, and a higher risk of death, making it one of the most dangerous traffic law violations.


Running a red light or stopping at a stop sign can result in one of three traffic violations:


A red light camera violation occurs when a driver runs a red light, and the intersection’s cameras capture the car’s license plate. After reviewing the video, Colorado law enforcement will decide whether or not to issue a citation. When authorities decide to issue a ticket, they send a notice to the car’s registered owner. In a personal injury case, this camera footage can be extremely useful.

Violations of running a stop sign occur when law enforcement witnesses the act, pulls a car over and issues a ticket to the driver.

Citations for running a red light result in law enforcement physically witnessing the act and issuing a citation to the driver right away.

In 2018, these three violations accounted for more than 22% of all Colorado traffic law violations.


Careless driving is defined by Colorado law as a violation of the legal obligation to drive carefully and prudently, taking into account the width, grade, curves, corners, traffic, and other surrounding circumstances, so as not to endanger any person’s life, limb, or property. In 2018, careless driving citations accounted for just over 10% of all Colorado traffic law citations issued. Many different driving behaviors could be classified as careless driving, as defined by the law. When it’s obvious that a driver wasn’t paying attention, even if the driver didn’t break any other traffic laws, law enforcement officers will usually issue a careless driving ticket. Officers may issue a careless driving citation in conjunction with other traffic law violations in other cases, particularly those that result in an accident and injury.


Running a stop sign or a red light is also a violation of a traffic control device in Colorado. In some cases, officers issue these tickets because the penalty for this violation is less severe than the penalty for running a stop sign or red light. Failure to obey a yield sign, making an illegal U-turn, failing to obey flashing lights or temporary signs, ignoring speed limit signs, and failing to obey railroad crossing signs and signals are all actions that can result in a citation and sometimes an accident.


When a Colorado police officer issues a traffic citation for failure to yield, it’s usually because of one of three things:

Failing to yield the right-of-way to a car approaching from another highway or to a car approaching so closely that it creates an immediate hazard when the driver passes through the intersection.


Failing to yield properly at a four-way stop—Colorado law requires that the first person who arrives at the intersection proceed first. Drivers must yield the right-of-way to the car on their right when two or more cars arrive at the intersection simultaneously.

Disobeying yield signs, such as failing to yield to pedestrians in a crosswalk or cars in a crosswalk. Colorado law considers sufficient collision evidence of the driver’s failure to yield after a driver drives past a yield sign and strikes a pedestrian or a car in an intersection.


Some drivers may believe it is acceptable to weave in and out of traffic without signaling or checking their mirrors. This is unacceptable and will result in a traffic citation, particularly if the lane change causes an accident. On a two-lane road, the same holds for passing cars.

Drivers in Colorado are only allowed to pass another car if the lane is clear of oncoming traffic.

Before changing lanes in a group of cars traveling in the same direction, a driver must ensure no one is trying to pass. When semi-trucks are present, improper lane changes can be especially dangerous. Blind spots on big rigs can stretch up to 20 feet in front and behind the tractor-trailer, with large areas on each side. When a car collides with a large semi, it almost always results in disaster, regardless of who is at fault.


Drivers who break these criminal traffic laws face higher fines, penalties, and even jail time:


Colorado law enforcement officers arrested nearly 50,000 people for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol in 2018. According to the Colorado Department of Highway Safety and Motor Cars, alcohol was involved in nearly 10,000 traffic accidents in 2017, including several hundred fatal crashes involving the driver, a passenger, and/or a pedestrian. Because of the dangers of drinking and driving, lawmakers in Colorado and across the country have made it a crime. Those with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of.08 will be charged, but those with a BAC of.15 or higher will face additional charges and penalties.

If the at-fault driver in your accident was convicted of DUI, your attorney would have an easier time proving negligence in your case. A DUI offense frequently constitutes negligence per se, which we will discuss in greater detail below.


A reckless driving charge in Colorado is the criminal equivalent of a careless driving citation. Those accused of reckless driving have shown a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of


others or their property. It doesn’t happen very often, thankfully. However, when a driver operates a car recklessly, it frequently results in an accident, injury, and death.

Using a car to elude law enforcement is the most common example of reckless driving. The amount of property damage, the extent of bodily injury, and whether or not a fatality occurred all factor into the fines and penalties associated with reckless driving. Additionally, prosecutors frequently reduce DUI charges to reckless driving charges when negotiating plea bargains with DUI offenders.


Depending on the circumstances, drivers who flee the scene of an accident risk facing hefty fines, jail time, and even prison time. Even though this is a criminal traffic law violation, it only happens about 5% of the time. Leaving the scene can lead to problems with insurance claims that exceed Colorado’s medical payments coverage, known as MedPay. Accident victims who do not have uninsured motorist coverage must absorb losses above their PIP limits.


In most cases, they are winning a personal injury lawsuit after a car accident necessitates proving negligence. For a Colorado court to rule in your favor, your attorney must present evidence establishing the four legal elements of negligence. They are as follows:

Responsibilities. All drivers have a responsibility to others on the road, which includes driving cautiously to avoid accidents and injuries and obeying traffic laws.

There has been a breach of duty. In some cases, especially when the at-fault driver broke a traffic law, this may be obvious.

Causation. The claimant must have suffered injury as a result of the breach of duty. The most contentious aspect of negligence is causation. If the driver breaks a traffic law, the defense may admit to a breach of duty, but they will show that the violation did not cause the accident.

Injury. The plaintiff must have been injured due to the accident, and the court must be able to assign a monetary value to that injury. This can include physical injury and mental and financial loss as a result of the accident.


Some personal injury cases do not require strict, element-by-element proof of negligence for a court to rule in the plaintiff’s favor, even though this is uncommon. Many of these cases


arise when the plaintiff’s lawyer claims that the defendant’s actions constituted negligence per se, a legal concept stating that negligence is presumed due to the nature of the conduct.

When the at-fault driver has broken a serious traffic regulation or committed a traffic crime, it may be negligence per se. Because of how the law defines negligence, those actions may constitute evidence of negligence per se. In that case, your lawyer only needs to show that the violation occurred and that it resulted in your injury. Your lawyer may argue both types of negligence in some cases.

Consider the case of a driver who has a couple of cocktails on the way home from work. She doesn’t want anyone at home to smell the alcohol on her breath when she leaves the bar. She reaches into her purse for chewing gum while driving, taking her gaze away from the road. She swerves and collides with another car. It is not illegal to reach for gum while driving, but it violates the driver’s duty of care. Meanwhile, driving while intoxicated is illegal. In this case, an attorney could argue that the driver was negligent per se because she was drinking and driving and taking her eyes off the road to reach for chewing gum.

Other traffic law violations that could lead to a negligence per se argument include: Violations of stoplights and stop signs

Wrong-way driving Drag racing

Fleeing police in a car.

When speaking with your lawyer about your case, inquire about whether negligence per se applies to your situation.


The purpose of traffic laws is to keep drivers safe while on the road. When careless drivers break these laws, they put others on the road in danger of accidents, injuries, and even death. Many of the most common violations of traffic laws are also common causes of traffic collisions. After an accident, law enforcement may issue a citation, which can aid your injury case by providing evidence or proof of negligence, depending on the violation.

If you have been injured in a car accident, contact an experienced lawyer to assist you in obtaining the compensation you deserve for your losses. Warrior Car Accident Lawyers, and Warrior Car Accident Lawyers, have offices on both coasts of Colorado, and you can reach us by calling 719-300-1100 or contacting us online.

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