Are You Allowed to Drive with a Broken Windshield in Colorado?

Woman reporting police over broken windshield.

Broken windshields are common in Colorado. The sand spread on roads for traction during winter months may have fine gravel that gets thrown by a tire into a windshield. You hear a sharp sound, then spot a crack or a star-shaped chip in your windshield. The damage also might happen in a hail storm.

Many people with broken windshields delay replacing the windshield. But this isn’t safe, and it could get you a traffic ticket if it obstructs your view. A small chip or crack in windshield glass could suddenly expand to obscure your view. Neglecting a damaged windshield could lead to a car accident and injuries.

Are You Allowed to Drive with a Broken Windshield in Colorado?

Colorado does not have specific laws about replacing or repairing cracked windshields, but the law does require a windshield view that is normal and unobstructed. Federal statutes address windshield damage and what is not acceptable.

Windshield Requirements by Law in Colorado

Colorado law (C.R.S. 42-4-201) requires that, “No vehicle shall be operated upon any highway unless the driver’s vision through any required glass equipment is normal and unobstructed.”

In C.R.S. 42-4-229, the law requires most cars to be equipped with a windshield that is made with safety glazing material, which is meant to keep a cracked windshield from shattering. Antique or classic cars originally built without windshields are exempt from the law.

In addition, according to C.R.S. 42-4-227, “The windshield on every motor vehicle shall be equipped with a device for cleaning rain, snow, or other moisture from the windshield, which device shall be so constructed as to be controlled or operated by the driver of the vehicle.” In other words, your vehicle must have windshield wipers.

Statutes also address limits on window tinting and the number of passengers in the car, both with regard to not obstructing the driver’s view.

The Colorado Driver’s Handbook provides additional guidance. It says, “Damaged glass can easily break in a minor collision or when something hits the windshield. Have the windshield replaced.” It also advises making sure windshield wipers work and keeping windshields, as well as other car windows, free of snow, ice and frost.

Federal law administered through the Federal Highway Administration requires a vehicle’s windshield to be free of obstruction above the steering wheel except for a 2-inch border at the top of the windshield. The windshield should be repaired if damage exceeds:

  • A crack 1⁄4-inch wide, or a crack is intersected by any other crack.
  • An area of damage that can be covered by a disc 3⁄4-inch in diameter (a penny), or if it is within 3 inches of any other such damaged area.

Will a Cracked Windshield Really Shatter?

Motorists who put off windshield repairs think a small crack or ding won’t get worse. But, according to a glass industry expert, that is a misconception. Several factors can cause a windshield crack to spread, including another blow or pressure applied to the glass, temperature changes that cause the glass to expand and contract, or dirt in the crack.

The safety glass required in windshields is meant to keep the windshield from shattering into tiny glass shards. Windshields consist of two layers of glass with a thin plastic film between them. This allows a broken windshield to break into smaller pieces but generally hold together, and adhesives hold it within the frame.

The extent to which a windshield can “shatter” will certainly obstruct your view if you are driving when it happens.

How Much Time Do I Have to Get a Windshield Fixed?

There is no specified time limit for a motorist to have a broken windshield replaced in the Rocky Mountain state.

If you have been ticketed for a damaged windshield, it is because the law enforcement officer decided that the windshield damage obstructed your view in violation of federal law. In a 2015 incident, a driver was reportedly ticketed as he sought repairs for a broken windshield.

The report, credited originally to KUSA TV in Denver, says the local Sheriff’s Department declined to comment on the citation but explained that ticketing officers are given discretion when issuing citations.

Will Insurance Pay for Windshield Repairs?

The replacement of auto glass is typically covered under the comprehensive section of a car insurance policy unless your windshield was broken in a collision. The comprehensive policy would also be likely to have a deductible, an amount the policyholder must spend before being eligible for insurance benefits. A new windshield typically costs a few hundred dollars.

If a windshield was damaged in a car accident, other auto insurance, such as another driver’s property damage liability coverage or your own collision or uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) coverage, may cover the repairs.

Considering the typical insurance deductibles, a windshield repair may well come out of your pocket if no other person caused the damage or if the broken windshield is not part of more extensive damage from an automobile crash. If someone else damaged your windshield through negligence or recklessness — a truck driver without mud flaps on rear tires, a vandal who is identified and caught, then he or she may be compelled to pay your repair costs.

Once you identify a legally liable party, you would contact them and their insurer with your claim. The individual might pay out of pocket, given deductibles and the cost. If that individual or the insurance company refuses to pay or offers too little money, your option would be to sue in small claims court.

The Sawaya Law Firm in Denver

The Sawaya Law Firm is dedicated to assisting individuals and families in Colorado in matters relating to personal injury, such as from motor vehicle accidents, slip-and-fall accidents or workplace accidents. For more information about how we can help you obtain the insurance settlement you deserve after an accident someone else has caused, contact us today.


Michael established The Sawaya Law Firm in 1977 and built it into one of the largest personal injury law firms in Colorado, with more than 20 lawyers and 80 staff members serving clients from five offices located in Denver, Greeley and Colorado Springs. Throughout its history, the firm has stayed true to its 12 Core Values, which emphasize excellence in advocacy and a commitment to providing outstanding client service. Michael studied sociology and economics as an undergraduate student at The Colorado College, and he earned his law degree from the Texas Tech University School of Law. In addition to being involved in several legal and community organizations, Michael enjoys playing music and cooking, and he has written a book on spiritual matters.