Everything You Need to Know About Driving in Denver

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Denver, Colorado is one of the fastest-growing cities in America, attracting people and businesses from all over the country. Traffic is on the rise, as well, especially during rush hour and on days when the city is hosting entertainment or sporting events.
Already the 19th-most populous city in the US, Denver is set to grow even larger as time goes on. Thousands flock to the Mile High City every year to enjoy its developing cultural scene, proximity to the great outdoors, and general laidback attitude. As the population rises, however, more cars appear on the roadways, leading to an increase in traffic.
Don’t worry, though, because we're here with some tips to help you get around in Denver. In this guide, we’ll tell you all about traffic conditions, local road laws, and what to expect while navigating the Queen City of the Plains.
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What is driving in Denver like?

Denver is known for many things, from its elevation to its loyal sports fans, and traffic is quickly becoming one of them. 
Denver was ranked the
15th most congested city
in the US, with drivers losing around 60 hours a year to traffic, on average. In addition, parking is inconsistent and pricey (but not terribly so), gas prices are high, and
is one of the most expensive states in the country for
car insurance
On top of these factors, here are some other things to watch for when driving in Denver.


Downtown Denver has an older grid system, running northeast-southwest, and a newer north-south grid that surrounds the old one. It can seem a bit confusing at first, but you’ll get the hang of it after a few trips around the block. Keep an eye out for pedestrians (there are a lot of them) and one-way streets.
The main highways around Denver are I-25 and I-70. They are usually very busy, even outside of rush hour, but they are very well-maintained and simple to drive on. Watch for signs posted in the far left-hand lanes, as these are often toll roads that cost money to use.
Become familiar with the city layout and important road names such as Colfax and Broadway before you drive and you’ll have a much easier time getting around.


Parking can sometimes be a bit difficult in Denver, but it’s easier than in other cities. 
The city’s Department of Transportation and Infrastructure (DOTI) currently manages seven surface-level public parking lots, open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Normal rates range from $3 to $12 an hour, depending on location and time of day, while event rates increase the price to between $5 to $12 an hour. Monthly parking is also available and cash and major credit cards are accepted forms of payment.
The DOTI also manages several public parking garages. The Cultural Center Complex Garage is open from 4am to 11pm and rates range from $3 to $10 depending on time spent parked. The Denver Justice Center Garage is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and rates go from $3 to $10. The Denver Performing Arts Complex Garage is also open 24/7 with $3 to $10 rates ($30 for a lost ticket). For all three garages, rates will increase on days with events.
The city also offers a decent amount of street/metered parking. Rates and hours of operation will be posted on the meters, but street parking is free on Sundays and major holidays.


The weather patterns in Denver can seem a bit extreme at times, especially to those visiting from milder climates. Here’s what you’re in for during the hot and cold seasons in Denver:
  • Summer: It can get very hot in Colorado during the summer months, but not hot enough to keep people off the roads. Tourists and locals emerging from their winter hideaways will appear in droves to enjoy the mountains and sunshine. Check your traffic app before hitting the road to avoid traffic jams.
  • Winter: It’s probably no surprise to learn that winter in Colorado is particularly harsh and cold. Snow and ice make the roads dangerous, so drive safely by reducing your speed and keeping a safe distance from other drivers. Make sure your car is equipped with a brush/scraper and non-freezing wiper fluid.
Colorado may experience sudden rainstorms, extremely high winds, and hail showers. Furthermore, the mountain roads are prone to mudslides, falling rocks, and flash flooding, so be careful and do your research before getting behind the wheel. Lastly, the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) has the power to enact the
Passenger Vehicle Traction Law
during severe winter storms.

Traffic and transportation options in Denver

The grid system in downtown Denver makes it fairly easy to get around, but you can still get bogged down in a traffic jam on a crowded street.
The worst times to drive in Denver are:
  • Between 8:00 and 9:00 am
  • Between 4:00 and 6:00 pm
Traffic can easily spill over into the hours before or after these rushes, though. The best times to drive would be very early in the morning (around 6 am) or later on in the evening (after 7:30 pm).
You can tune your radio to KOA 850 AM or 94.1 FM for traffic updates.

Should I rent a car in Denver?

You might be wondering if it’s worth
renting a car
to get around Denver—it’s really up to you. Of course, you’ll be more at risk of getting lost or stuck in a traffic jam, but Colorado is a big, beautiful state with plenty to see. You might want a car just to get out of the city for a day or two.
The commonly-held belief is that you don’t really need to rent a car to navigate Denver, though. The city has a great public transportation system, including both light rail and bus routes operated by the Regional Transportation Department (RTD). Most of the attractions (museums, shopping centers, etc.) are fairly close to one another in the downtown area, so you could just walk or catch an RTD bus.
The city hosts rideshare platforms like Uber and Lyft and also offers public bike rentals. You can rent a car if you like, but there are plenty of other ways to get around the Mile High City.

Local driving laws in Denver

Before you get behind the wheel, take a minute to familiarize yourself with some of the local driving laws in Denver. Here are a few worth knowing:
  • Colorado has not entirely banned the use of cell phones while driving, but
    texting and driving
    is a serious offense with significant penalties.
  • Drivers are required to yield to emergency vehicles driving with flashing lights. If the emergency vehicle is stopped, drivers must slow down and
    move over
    to give them as much space as possible.
  • The state employs
    red-light cameras
    to monitor traffic.

Crime rate in Denver

One unfortunate feature of Denver is its high crime rate, which will affect your car insurance costs.
Despite its laid-back, free-spirited reputation, Denver has one of the highest crime rates in the country, with a rate of 57 crimes per 1,000 residents each year. Denver’s crime rate is higher than a whopping 96% of other Colorado communities.
Furthermore, the FBI has observed that Denver has one of the highest rates of automobile theft in the nation. If you live in Denver, the chances of getting your car stolen are 1 in 85.

How to find car insurance in Denver

If you plan on hitting the road in the Mile High City, you’re going to want a good car insurance policy.
That’s where
comes in. Jerry is a car insurance expert and #1 rated insurance app that believes in simplicity. A lot of people simply don’t bother shopping for car insurance because it’s too confusing and time-consuming. We want to change that.
Sign-up is easy and free—all you have to do is download the app and enter your information. In less than a minute, Jerry will show you a personalized list of quotes from 55+ top-rated insurance providers. If you find one you like, our team of experts will help you finalize your new policy and can even help cancel your old one.
Oh, and before we forget, Jerry users save an average of $887 a year on their car insurance!
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