One of the thrills of being a teenager is getting a license and enjoying for the first time the freedoms of the road. Unfortunately for some, freedom equates into daring, resulting in tragic consequences. State and national statistics bear this true:
- Nationally and in Colorado, motor vehicle accidents are the foremost cause of death for teenagers.
- Nationally and in Colorado, 16-year-olds crash more than any other age group.
- Fatal crash rates among 16- to 19-year-olds is FOUR TIMES higher than that of older drivers.
- Driver death rates for 16- and 17-year-olds increases with each additional driver.
- Colorado teen drivers represent only six percent of licensed state drivers, yet account for 11 percent of all statewide traffic deaths.
But stats do not mean quite so much when you are young and have the indelible sense of immortality. Of course, it is not just this generation; it is an age-old problem.
Twenty years ago, principals would bring a smashed up, obliterated car to the school grounds and just plop it there with a sign saying "This could be you," and a driver education teacher would roll reels and reels of film showing horrendous car wrecks involving teenagers. Did it work then? For some, maybe. Scare tactics only go so far and teenagers deserve a respectful approach to learning how to drive, which is why the state initiated the Graduated License Program.
The Graduated License Program
This law, which came into being in 1999, mandates how learner permits are designated and provides general rules for licensed drivers under 18 years old.
There are three types of permits issued in the state, each discussed in detail on our Driver Education page on this site. But in a nut, the program stipulates:
- You can obtain a permit at 15 years old only if you enroll in a state-approved driver education program and complete the Affidavit of Completion of a Driver Education Classroom Course.
- You can apply for a permit at 15 years and 6 months only after completing a four-hour driver awareness course. You must also complete an Affidavit of Completion of a Driver Education Classroom Course.
- If you elect to forgo classes, you must wait until turning 16 years old to apply for a permit.
- If under 18 years old, you must have a parent or legal guardian sign an Affidavit of Liability and Guardianship.
Under 18 Years Old With an Instruction Permit
Before applying for a license, you must:
- Hold your instruction permit for at least one year.
- Log 50 hours of supervised driving time, with 10 of those hours occurring at night. During this time, you can only be accompanied by a driving instructor, a parent or legal guardian, or an adult alternate permit supervisor approved by parent or legal guardian. All supervisors must hold a Colorado driver's license.
Licensed Drivers Under 18 Years Old
You must adhere to the following restrictions:
- You cannot ride with any passenger under 21 until after 6 months of owning your license (siblings and passengers with medical emergencies are exempt).
- You cannot drive with more than 1 passenger under 21 years old until after holding your license for more than 1 year1 year (siblings and passengers with medical emergencies are exempt).
- You cannot drive with more than 1 passenger sitting up front.
- You and your passengers must wear seat belts.
- You cannot drive between midnight and 5 a.m until after holding your license for more than 1 year. Exceptions to this rule include work and school reasons, and if you're accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.
Cell Phone Use
Bear in mind that it is illegal to operate a cell phone in any manner when driving with a permit. The only exception to this is if you're in an emergency situation.