As the last of summer slips away, it’s not uncommon to see more motorcyclists on Colorado’s roads, especially on the weekends. Motorcycling is as popular as ever in Colorado, with the number of registered bikes up since 2012. But they’re also deadlier than ever. Just last year, 125 motorcyclists died in motor vehicle accidents, which is a 15 percent jump from the year before and an all-time high for Colorado. In fact, motorcycle fatalities have been on the rise over the last several years, and now make up more than 20 percent of all roadway fatalities in the state. In fact, the latest National Highway Traffic Safety Administration research shows that motorcyclists are 27 times more likely to die in an accident than anyone else.

Colorado is a Motorcycle Mecca

Colorado ranks among the top 15 states for motorcycle registrations. The state’s been slowly creeping up the rankings for years. On average, Americans own one motorcycle for every 35.7 residents. In Colorado, there’s one bike for every 29 residents.

Just last year, SmartAsset, a financial tech firm that uses data to offer consumers “free, actionable advice on big financial decisions,” ranked Fort Collins, Colorado, America’s top city for motorcycle owners. Aside from the scenic roadways, SmartAsset’s ranking attributed the city’s lack of traffic to Fort Collins’ draw for motorcyclists. Fort Collins drivers spend less than 20 hours a year in traffic on average, which makes Fort Collins one of the 20 least-congested cities in the country.

Colorado’s low gas taxes are another attraction for motorcycle riders. The state’s gasoline tax is only 22 cents per gallon.

What are Colorado’s Motorcycle Laws?

The most notable of Colorado’s motorcycle laws is the lack of a helmet requirement for riders over the age of 18. NHTSA data showing that nearly two-thirds of motorcycle accident deaths occurred when riders went without helmets in states without a mandatory helmet law. There is still a 13 percent fatality rate in states with helmet mandates, but surprisingly, only 19 states require all riders to wear a helmet.

However, Colorado does require some type of eye protection for all riders. This typically includes goggles, glasses, or a helmet visor, but excludes windshields. But surprisingly, Colorado has no mirror requirement for motorcycles, making it even more difficult to see well while riding.

An important law to take note of is Colorado prohibiting motorcyclists from “passing or overtaking” a vehicle in the same lane. Lane sharing, or lane splitting, is against the law. Motorcycles can, however, share lanes with another motorcycle. And like any other motor vehicle on the road, Colorado requires motorcyclists to carry a minimum amount of liability insurance.

Helmet Laws Save Lives

There’s little doubt that motorcycle helmet laws keep riders alive. Michigan offers a chilling case study. The state rolled back its helmet law in 2012, requiring only riders under 21 to wear helmets. Within the first year, the fatality rate among un-helmeted riders nearly doubled. The rate of hospitalized trauma patients jumped 14 percent and the number of skull fractures jumped nearly 40 percent.

A motorcycle accident can be a terrifying experience. On top of a motorcycle, a rider is much more vulnerable than someone in a car or truck. It’s not even a matter of speed. Research shows that most motorcycle accidents occur when the riders is traveling under 30 mph!