Both in Colorado and across the United States, vehicle crashes are the number one cause of death for teens. That’s why Colorado has Graduated Drivers Licensing (GDL) laws in place with extra restrictions for teen drivers.
“Generally it is dangerous to be a teen driver and it's dangerous to share the roads with teens," says Skyler McKinney, a regional director of public affairs for AAA in Colorado. "It's not their fault. They are inexperienced and can make more mistakes on the road that can be fatal."
If you’re the parent of a teen, here are a few guidelines you can share with them to keep them safe on the roads.
Stay Off the Cell Phone
Texting or talking on a cell phone while driving is illegal for minors in Colorado. Yet, 51% of teens in the state admit to texting while driving. Another 66% have talked on the phone while driving, according to a AAA survey.
Cell phone use has been shown to reduce the brain’s capability to process driving related tasks by 37%. It also reduces your teen’s reaction time to other vehicles and inhibits their control over the vehicle.
But parents can help their teens limit distractions and become safer drivers. If you want to be more active in your teen's driving, you can:
Set an example by driving without distractions
Encourage your teen to stay off their phone while driving
Explain the risks of distracted driving
Most phones also have features that can limit distractions for your teen. For instance, Apple has a “Do Not Disturb While Driving” feature that detects when you may be driving. It turns off notifications and sends automatic messages to people who try to contact you.
Practice Proper Passenger Safety
Passengers can be another major distraction for young drivers. Colorado’s GDL laws state that for the first six months after get their license, your teen can only have passengers who are 21 years of age and older. The second six months they’re licensed, new drivers are allowed only one passenger under 21.
According to research done by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the chance of your teen engaging in risky driving behaviors goes up two and a half times when driving with a teenaged passenger than when driving alone.
You can enforce these guidelines with your teen or even extend them until you're confident they can drive safely with passengers.
Enroll Your Teen in a Driving Course
A supplemental driving course can help a teen driver gain experience and confidence. Plus, if your teen is only 15 years old, they have to take a driver’s education course before applying for a learning permit.
Colorado offers several state-sanctioned courses both online and in person. These courses teach young drivers:
Colorado state traffic laws
Behind-the-wheel experience with a certified trainer.
Another option for Colorado teens is taking an online driver’s ed course. These state-certified courses not only qualify them for a license, but can also provide discounts on auto insurance.
As your teen begins to drive, take the necessary steps to teach them about Colorado’s GDL laws, encourage safe driving habits like staying off the phone and limiting passengers, and enroll them in supplemental driving courses. There’s nothing more valuable than your child’s life and safety, so take the time to be involved with their driving.