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There are newly-minted teenage drivers on Colorado’s roads every day. And that is sort of terrifying. Back when I learned to drive, I was relatively safe on New Jersey’s empty back roads. Today’s Colorado teenagers learn on some of the most intimidating roads I’ve ever seen!
Imagine facing I-25 at rush hour as a new driver. Or Colorado Boulevard in Denver any time of day. Or Academy Boulevard in Colorado Springs. These are no-joke roads for seasoned drivers. Similarly, laws around teenage drivers have changed a lot since my youth, which is probably a blessing.
In this article, I’m going to outline the path that teenagers in Colorado must take to become full-fledged legal drivers. I’m also going to include some suggestions for additional steps that parents might want to consider to ensure their teen is fully road-ready. Finally, I’m attaching a downloadable PDF of a Teen Driver Contract that parents may use when discussing the privilege of driving with their teen, and consequences for infractions.
Colorado requires that teenagers have a driving permit for 12 months before applying for a license, so you need to start the process at the age of 15 if you expect to be driving solo on your 16th birthday.
For the purpose of this article, I’m going to assume that you are starting this process when your teen turns 15, giving you a full year to complete all of the requirements, which include:
After 12 months, 30 hours of drivers ed course work, 50 hours of driving time (including 6 hours with a certified instructor), your teen may apply for a driver’s license! Here are the items you need to bring to your appointment:
Here are the laws as stated on the Colorado Department of Motor Vehicle Website:
As a parent who has been through this, I can tell you that the hardest rules to enforce are the ones about the number of other teens that can be in your teen’s car. There is intense pressure from other teens (and, sadly, from some parents who are looking for rides for their non-drivers) to pack a teen’s car with other teens.
I cannot stress enough that this is a bad idea. First of all, the driver could lose his/her license if pulled over by a cop. Second, and more important, is the fact that teenagers are extremely distracting and your teen needs all his/her attention on the road.
My wife and I were sticklers about these laws, which made us unpopular with our sons, their friends, and (frustratingly) with some parents, who wanted us to flaunt the laws. But it’s only one year, and it’s important. Stay strong!
Here’s another step that I took with my kids and I thought it was very helpful. I enrolled them in extra driving courses that beefed up their winter driving skills and defensive driver skills. As part of one of these courses, they were even given “drunk goggles,” which simulated how impaired their driving skills would be at different levels of intoxication.
I fully believe these courses improved my kids’ driving skills and awareness around the dangers of drinking and driving.
Finally, several years ago, I drafted a Teen Driver Contract that I used with my sons and I thought I’d share it with you. Feel free to download this contract. The number one goal of this contract is to start a conversation with your teen. Open communication is the best way to navigate this new (terrifying) phase of your child’s life.