Cars and Bicycles

Owning and Operating a Car
A Word of Caution

It may seem to you that everyone here needs a car. In fact, it is quite possible to live in Golden without one. Owning a car is expensive and often troublesome, because they need repairs that are usually costly and are not always reliable. Cars require regular and continuing spending for maintenance, license plates and annual registration, insurance, and fuel. Unless you have an ample supply of money, therefore, it is wise to be cautious about buying a car.

Driver's License

With one exception, anyone living in the state of Colorado and driving a car here must have a Colorado driver's license. You may drive legally in Colorado if you have a current International Driver's License (issued for one year only) and your home country driver's license in your possession while you drive. The Department of Transportation advises obtaining a Colorado driver’s license if you will stay here longer than 30 days. See the site here for more information.

To obtain an Colorado license, you must go to the Drivers License Office. Hours: Monday-Friday 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. You will need your passport (to prove your identity and age), I-94, and certificate of eligibility (I-20 for people in F status, DS-2019 for Js), letter from the ISSS, and Social Security number (not card).  If you do not have a SSN or plan to obtain one, you must first go to the Social Security Administration office in Lakewood and ask for a letter for DMV stating that you are not eligible or do not have a SSN. For additional information on obtaining a SSN, see the social security information handout at the International Office. You will be required to take an examination concerning driving laws and practices. The test is not given within 30 minutes of closing time. In addition to the test , you may be required to take a "road test." If so, you will be asked to drive your car while accompanied by a driver's license examiner. (You must furnish your own car for the test.)  Road tests are given on an appointment basis. To insure that an examiner will be available, it is best to go in during the early office hours.

Before going to take the driver's license examination, you should study the booklet, Driver's Licence Manual, which is available at the Department of Revenue,  The booklet contains all the information needed to pass the written part of the test and is available free of charge. 

The DMV website provides information about approval driver education in Colorado.

It is vital to learn and follow traffic regulations. Regulations concerning driving speed, turning, and parking are used to control automobile (and bicycle) traffic in the U.S. Most people generally adhere to those regulations, and the regulations are enforced by the police. Violations of traffic regulations are punished by fines, jail sentences, and/or loss of driving privileges. Cars parked in violation of regulations may be towed away, and the owner required to pay a fine, towing costs, and storage costs.

Driving in Golden

In addition to knowing local traffic laws, it is necessary, for safety's sake, to know the customs and practices local drivers follow. A related matter is what the Americans call "defensive driving." In their driver-training classes, Americans are generally taught to "drive defensively," which means to drive with the assumption that other drivers might make mistakes or drive dangerously. Some suggestions for driving defensively:

  • Watch other drivers (not just in front of you, but beside and behind you as well), and make sure they are staying in their lanes, not turning from the wrong lane, not driving too fast, not overtaking on the wrong side, or otherwise following illegal or improper practices.
  • Always allow enough distance between your car and the car ahead of you to come to an emergency stop without hitting that car.
  • Always watch for other drivers entering an intersection. Don't assume that, because you have the right-of-way or a green light, all drivers will yield for you. Drivers who are obeying the law will yield, but drivers who are not paying attention or otherwise driving recklessly may not.

In some countries, driving regulations are not as detailed or as strictly enforced as they are here, and driving habits may be shaped more by competition with other drivers than by laws. In still other countries, the laws regulating traffic are detailed but are different from the ones in the U.S. People who have learned to drive in other places may easily but unintentionally violate driving regulations here and then be penalized for their violation.

Colorado's Safety-Belt Law

Colorado law requires the use of seatbelts by the driver and front-seat occupants of any 1968 or newer car, truck, or van.

Children must be restrained in boosters -- or other appropriate child car seats -- until they reach the age of 8 years old. Parents searching for an appropriate child safety seat to meet the requirements in Colorado need to make sure the car seat matches the child's weight, height and age:

  • Birth to 1 year old and less than 20 lbs: Rear-facing seat, in the back seat only(no exceptions). While this is the law in Co, most experts recommend keeping your child in a rear-facing seat until 2 years old.
  • You should never place a rear-facing child seat in the front seat of a vehicle with an active airbag; this includes single-cab pickup trucks.
  • 1 through 3 years old and at least 20 lbs: Forward-facing seat in the back seat of the vehicle.
  • Your child should remain in the forward-facing seat only until they reach the upper weight limit set by the car seat manufacturer..
  • 4 through 7 years old: Booster seat.
  • Beginning at 8 years old: Standard vehicle safety belt.

While CO law allows children to use a standard seat belt at 8 years old, it is recommended that you wait until your child is at least 4 ft 9 inches before transitioning to a seat belt, so as to avoid injury in case of an accident.

All child passenger safety violations are enforced as primary traffic safety laws. In other words, an officer could pull you over just for breaking a child-safety law. You face a minimum $82 fine.

Failure to use seat belts can result in a fine and court costs.

Buying a Car

You will probably be buying a used car, either from a car dealer or from a private individual. In any case you should have with you an acquaintance who is both knowledgeable about cars and skeptical by nature. Such a person could help you evaluate both the condition of the car and the claims made by the person who is selling it. These evaluations are essential, because buying a car, especially a used one, can be very tricky. Two private consumer protection groups surveyed consumer agencies and found that the most common complaint, by far, related to used-car sales.

Remember that when you buy a car the "certificate of ownership" or "certificate of title" must be transferred to you from the previous owner.

Automobile Registration

If you buy a car, you must register it and obtain license plates for it. This is done at 100 Jefferson County Pkwy. Suite 2540 -- Admin and Courts Facility - Golden, CO 80419. Requirements for registering a car vary depending on whether the car is new or used and, if it is used, how old it is. To find out what you would have to do to register a particular car, visit the Division of Motor Vehicles or call them at 303-205-5600.

If you sell a car, you must also do certain paperwork through the Division of Motor Vehicles.

It is essential to have at least liability insurance if you have a car. You are required to have documentary proof of insurance in your car. Failure to do so can result in fines and in temporary loss of your license plates, automobile registration, and even your car.

Automobile Insurance

There are several types of automobile insurance:

Liability insurance is the most basic type. It protects you if your car kills or injures someone else, or damages someone else's property. You are considered legally liable if a car you own (whether you or someone else is driving it) causes injury or death to another person or damage to someone else's property, unless the accident is clearly not the fault of the person driving your car. If you are legally liable for injuries, death, or damages resulting from an automobile accident, you could face payments of tens of thousands of dollars. If you do not have liability insurance to help pay those costs, you will have to pay them yourself. This is why you will want to have liability insurance, even if your car itself is not very valuable.
Collision insurance protects your car in case of collision with another car.
Comprehensive insurance covers losses caused by storms, thieves, and vandals.

Buying Car Insurance

In the yellow pages of the telephone directory you will find a long list of insurance agents under the heading "Insurance." Unless a friend can recommend a reliable agent to you, you should talk to at least two agents about your insurance needs. The amount of insurance you buy for your car should depend on its value. Insurance rates vary from company to company, and they depend also on the value of the car, the amount it is driven, the age of the drivers, and the past driving records of the drivers.

In Case of an Accident

  • Call the police if there is any substantial damage to any car or other property.
  • Do not move any car that was involved in an accident until the authorities arrive.
  • Obtain identifying and insurance information from all drivers involved, and furnish your own to other drivers.

In Case Your Vehicle Breaks Down on the Roadway

  • Stay calm.
  • Park your vehicle as far off the traveled portion of the highway as possible.
  • Make your vehicle visible. Turn on the four-way emergency flashers.
  • Exit the vehicle from the passenger’s side, away from traffic.
  • Open the vehicle’s hood and leave it open.
  • Put reflectorized triangles behind your vehicle to alert other drivers; use your emergency flashers. If it is dark, turn on the interior dome light.
  • Use your cell phone to call for help.
  • If someone stops to help, keep your doors locked. Open the window slightly and ask the person to call law enforcement for help.
  • It is inadvisable to walk on an interstate, especially during inclement weather. However, if you can reach a source of help on foot, without jeopardizing your physical or personal safety, try the direct approach by walking. Keep as far from traffic as possible and walk on the right side of the roadway. Never attempt to cross a multi-lane, high speed roadway.

Driving in Winter

Winter often brings dangerous driving conditions to the Golden area. If you plan to operate a car during the winter, there are some things you should remember:

Get your car "winterized" 

This means putting on "snow tires" (that have a heavier tread than regular tires), or at least making sure your tires are not worn smooth; putting anti-freeze into your radiator, unless your car's engine is air-cooled; changing to a lighter weight oil; and making certain your brakes, windshield wipers, turn signals, and headlights are in good operating condition. Be sure you have an ice scraper and a snow brush in your car. The American Automobile Association (AAA) recommends having a "winter driving kit" that includes tire chains, a small snow shovel, extra clothing, traction mats, booster cables, warning devices (flares or triangles), a small bag of abrasive material (sand, salt, or kitty litter), a flashlight, some cloth or a roll of paper towels, and a blanket.

Drive carefully

There are times in the Denver area (radio and television reports will tell you when they are) when roads are so slippery and/or visibility is so limited that automobile driving should be undertaken only if it is absolutely necessary. If you must drive under these adverse conditions, you should remember several safety rules:

  • Before starting off, remove snow and ice from all windows and remove snow from the entire car, so blowing snow does not obstruct your vision once you begin driving.
  • Start slowly, using second gear.
  • Do not follow other cars closely.
  • Drive slowly.
  • To stop, pump your brakes, rather than pressing steadily on the brake pedal.  If your car starts to spin, turn your wheel in the opposite direction of the spin.
  • Watch other cars very carefully, and assume that their drivers are having difficulty controlling them.
  • Be very careful to obey all traffic regulations.

Buying a Bicycle

Bicycling is popular as a sport and means of transportation. Therefore, many of the bicycles for sale here are very elaborate ten-speed racing models and rugged "all-terrain" bicycles. If you are using your bicycle for transportation only, you may not need such expensive models. Used bicycles are advertised on Craigslist and local bike shops. We also have a group in town called the Golden Optimists who recycle and repair bike and give them to those in need.  If you are interested in contacting them please email Ted Rains.

Bicycle Registration

You do not need to license a bicycle in Golden. However, you may wish to have your bicycle's serial number registered with the National Bike Registry . Having the serial number registered can help the police recover your bicycle if it is stolen. 

Bicycle Theft

It is important to lock your bicycle securely whenever you leave it. Although bicycle theft is not as common in Golden as it is in large U.S. cities, it is still a serious problem. Ask the person who sells you the bicycle to recommend an effective lock for it. You should lock your bicycle into a bicycle rack, not to light poles, trees, or posts.

Bicycle Safety

When you are riding your bicycle on a street or road, you must obey the same rules and traffic signs as someone driving a car. You can be ticketed by police and be required to pay a fine for violating traffic regulations with a bicycle, just as you can for violating them with a car. There are hand signals you should use to let motorists know when you plan to make a turn. Putting your left arm straight out from your side signals a left turn. Bending the left arm upwards at the elbow indicates a right turn. If you are riding your bicycle before sunrise or after sunset, you must have a headlight and rear light or reflector. It is a good idea to wear light-colored or reflective clothing when riding at night, and a very good idea to wear a helmet anytime you ride a bike. 

Before riding a bicycle in the Golden area, spend some time observing bicycle traffic patterns. Those patterns might not be the same as the ones you are accustomed to. Notice that cars do not usually yield to bicyclists.  Neither do pedestrians. Bicyclists must therefore be quite attentive to cars, trucks, and pedestrians, and must be able to stop or turn aside if they find their path obstructed. In some other countries, bicycle traffic gets more preferential treatment than it generally does in the United States.

Bicycle Routes

A map of bicycle routes for recreational riding is available from the City of Golden.

Rules for Bicyclists

To improve conditions for bicyclists and pedestrians, Mines has adopted a set of rules for cyclists. Some definitions are used in these bicycle regulations, including “pedestrian areas” or “slow zones”, which mean any walkway, sidewalk, crosswalk, plaza, patio, play court, parking facility, loading zone, and any other University facility that is intended primarily or partially for use by pedestrians. In pedestrian areas, individuals traveling on foot or in a wheelchair always have the right of way. For more information about regulations on campus, please visit the Policy on Use of Non-Motorized Vehicles on CampusPDF versionText only version.

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Last Updated: 08/04/2017 08:23:15