Prepare Your Teenager to be a New Driver

Tips for Parents of Colorado Teens

Colorado has some very specific teen driver regulations. As a result, it’s a good idea for both parents and new drivers to be in-the-know. As a parent, you (or another responsible adult) has to log at least 50 hours in your car with your teen driver-in-training, 10 of which must be at night, before your child can apply for a license.

But there are other rules and regulations that go along with Colorado’s graduated licensing system. Colorado teen driving laws were strengthened in 2004 after studies showed that 16-year-old drivers have the highest crash rates and are more likely to die in the event of an accident. Additionally, 67% of Colorado teens who died in crashes weren’t wearing seat belts. A National Institute of Health Study indicated, in 2005, that the part of the brain that controls impulse and risk-taking, isn’t fully developed till age 25. It’s probably a good idea to make sure your teen driver knows these statistics, even if they may not register to many kids—ahem, that “invincible” feeling that’s a general side effect of youth.

When you’re first teaching your teen to drive, make sure to start off in an empty parking lot or on a quiet neighborhood street, so your teen can get used to operating the car under relaxing rather than stressful conditions. The Colorado Department of Transportation provides some excellent teaching tips in this manual.

Of course, there are other things to consider, beyond the actual mechanics of teaching.How do you, as a parent, help your teen driver (or soon-to-be driver), comply with the laws and generally drive safely?

Colorado’s Teen Driving Laws

First, review teen driving laws with your child so that they know what they can and cannot do once they get a permit, and later, a license. Outline the consequences they can expect from you if they break these laws. (Maybe they’ll have to pay their ticket from their own pocket, or they’ll lose car or driving privileges.)

Age Restrictions

If your child has passed a state-approved driver’s ed course within the last six months, they can apply for a learner’s permit at 15 years old. If they opt to complete a four hour drivers awareness course, they can apply at 15-and-a-half. Otherwise, they must wait until they turn 16 to apply for a learner’s permit. Any new driver under the age of 18 needs a parent or guardian’s signature to obtain a permit.

Practice Hours

In addition to logging 50 practice hours, a teen driver has to hold a learner’s permit for a full year. During those 50 hours, your teen must be accompanied by a parent, guardian, or driving instructor if they are 15. At 16, they can start logging hours with any licensed driver over the age of 21.

Cell Phones and Passengers

Teens are never allowed to use cell phones while driving in Colorado. New drivers (holding licenses for under six months) aren’t allowed to have passengers under the age of 21, with the exception of siblings. Teens aren’t allowed to drive between the hours of midnight and 5 a.m. until they’ve held a valid license for a year.

The number of passengers in a car should never exceed the number of seatbelts. Only one passenger is allowed in the front seat, and all passengers under 17 must wear a seatbelt. The rate of crashes rises in proportion to the amount of passengers in a vehicle. Thus, you may want to place your own limits on the number of passengers your teen can ferry.

Set Your Own Boundaries

It may be helpful to sign a contract with your teen that defines your personal rules regarding their driving privileges. If you want them home earlier than midnight, clarify your family’s driving curfew in the contract. If you want to limit the passengers in your teen’s car, put that in the contract as well.

Many insurance companies give discounts for good grades. If your teen’s driving privileges will be related to their school performance, define those terms in the contract. If you don’t want your teen to drive in adverse weather conditions, such as heavy rain or snow, add it in!

Make sure your teen knows that you will come to pick them up, no matter what. This includes if they are riding with an unsafe driver, if they feel too tired to drive, if the weather suddenly turns bad, or if they have been drinking or are under the influence of any other chemicals. (Save the lectures for the following day, not the initial phone conversation!)

Organize Documents & Supplies

Help your teen organize necessary documents in their glovebox. Explain to them what to expect and what to do if they’re pulled over for a traffic violation.

A driver should always carry:

  • Proof of insurance
  • Proof of registration
  • A copy of the vehicle’s title
  • AAA or some other emergency service card (your insurance may provide roadside assistance)
  • Emergency contact information

During Colorado winters, every car also needs:

  • Ice scraper and snow brush
  • Jumper cables
  • Small snow shovel
  • Blanket
  • Flashlight
  • Bottled water
  • Granola bars
  • Cell phone charger

You may also want to make sure there’s a bag of kitty litter or rock salt in the truck, in case their vehicle gets stuck in snow. Hopefully an adult driver will stop to help your teen maneuver out of a tricky snow situation, but it will be useful to have supplies ready.

If Your Teen is Pulled Over

If a police car gets behind your teen with lights whirling, tell your teen to pull over at the first safe opportunity—along the shoulder of the road or in a parking lot or gas station. Your teen may feel alone and vulnerable. Make sure they know it’s okay to keep going until they find a well-lit spot, but that they should flash their lights once to acknowledge the police car. Your teen should turn off the engine, turn off their radio, turn on their interior lights, roll down the window, and put their hands on the steering wheel. If the officer asks for documents, the teen should tell the officer they need to get them from the glove compartment before moving to do so.

Remind your new driver to be polite to the officer no matter what, even if they don’t think they were speeding or violating any law. They should sign for the ticket now and fight it later, in court, if they really believe it’s unwarranted. Remind them that arguing can make things worse and actually result in arrest.

Insure Your Teen Driver

Car insurance is the law in Colorado. However, your teen may not have adequate coverage if you’ve only purchased state minimum car insurance. To make sure your teen is adequately covered, contact a Colorado Farm Bureau Insurance agent.

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