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The introduction of Colorado's Graduated License Law in July 1999, coupled with the rapid decline of traditional high school driver's ed (those simulators aren't cheap), has led to an increase in independent driving schools. What this means is that prospective young drivers today will be more prepared than ever before when they get behind the wheel. These companies are governed by the state and must offer a core course entitled, Basic Operator Skills Testing (BOST) to be approved.
The Graduated License Law is all about slowing down the instant gratification process that was once associated with getting a license. Teens would seemingly have a license before the smoke had cleared from blowing out the 16 birthday candles. But, the majority of the time these teens were not necessarily being equipped with the skills or the responsibility faculties to utilize a license properly. Today, it is even more important to stress more intensive driver education; just look at the size of these small tanks people are driving.
Under the law, you can apply for three types of learner permits, depending on the age you begin your quest for a license: Driver Education Permit, Driver Awareness Permit, and Minor Permit. Each type (if you're under 18) needs to be carried for one year before upgrading to a driver license. In that year, you'll need to log a minimum of 50 hours of drive time (10 of those hours coming at night).
If you are under 16, you will need to have completed some type of approved 30 hours classroom driver education training. Colorado certifies numerous companies to offer these services (and yes, some still take place in high schools).
Check out the DMV's list of approved driver education companies.
You can also view the list of approved companies offering the four-hour Driver Awareness Permit Class.
Many of these driving-instruction businesses are now also allowed to offer the actual state driving test to minors holding permits. The exam fee costs more but there are important benefits, the major one being that you do not need to provide the testing vehicle. So, if you were having trouble locating a fit vehicle to take the test in (i.e., one with insurance and roadworthy enough to pass a general visual safety inspection), signing up to take the driving test through one of these companies may be a good option.
Even with all the official training, however, nothing really makes a new driver as confident as experience, experience, experience.
Here's a little friendly advice for new drivers from someone who's been there. They don't teach you everything in school!
- Don't order mega-size drinks at the drive-through. They tip over in the drink holders when you turn or stop, and if you hold the drink between your legs for stability, then you can't operate the floor pedals.
- Don't try to eat a sandwich or burger while you're driving. The mayonnaise-covered tomatoes will fall into your lap and you'll have to make a snap decision between swerving to the curb (bad) or leaving the grease stain on your jeans (bad).
- Don't make or receive calls on your cell phone while you are driving. It's bad karma, everyone else on the road will be irritated with you, and you won't realize you're going too slow and swerving all over the place until you cause an accident. Same goes for applying makeup while driving: just don't!
- Don't under any circumstances send a text message when you're at the wheel. The police officer won't be sympathetic when you explain that you absolutely, positively could not wait until you pulled off the road to text "c u soon" to your best friend, so instead you rear-ended someone while your eyes and thumbs were busy on the keypad.
- Don't be lame and give in to peer pressure. If some nimrod in the back seat says, "How fast can this thing go?" ignore them―they're not the one who will get busted or cause an accident. Someone in the car has to be the grown-up: you.
- Don't panic and jump out of the car if you notice a bee on the inside of the windshield. Ever seen your car roll down the street without a driver? You don't want to.
- Do wear your seatbelt every time you get into a car, even for a short ride. Something as common as stopping suddenly to avoid a cat darting across the street can cause your face to meet your steering wheel. The results won't be pretty, and your prom date will find an excuse to back out.
- Do be vigilant for other drivers who are not as with it as you are, and keep your distance. You never know when they will decide to enter your space (since they won't bother to signal), and the element of surprise isn't as fun on the road as it is at a birthday party.
- Do install a dog barrier in the back of your car before taking Rover for a ride. Rover will want to be in the front seat with you, and trying to swat him back with one hand while steering with the other is a sure way to take out a whole line of parked cars.
- Do obey speed limits so that you will have time to react should an unexpected obstacle (a person, another car, an animal) appear. Besides, no one will believe you got that huge dent going "only 10 miles an hour."
- Do listen to your stereo at a low enough volume that you can hear emergency sirens. Those fire trucks are a lot bigger than you, so you'll want to know one is approaching before it runs you over.
- Do take it easy, pay attention, and take the rules of the road seriously. In a few years when you can honestly say you've never had a ticket or an accident, people will respect you, and it will be an enormous point of pride.
- Be polite and share the road. You are in a two-ton vehicle; do not let it be an extension of your anger. Despite all your thinking to the contrary, you do not own the road; others, especially cyclists, have a right to be on it. And, if you hit them it will hurt. A bike weighs about 23 pounds.
- Always watch out for pedestrians, especially the wee ones.
- Watch out for creatures both big and small. Colorado is populated with all sorts of wildlife that have a tendency to cross the road at the most inopportune times. So be extra cautious, especially at dusk, in known wildlife areas.
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