The rules of the road may be the same, but getting there is a whole new journey
Kelly Storick, who will be a junior at Rock Canyon High School this fall, received her license this past November.
By Elean Gersack; photo courtesy of Julie Storick
Gone are the days of in-school driver’s education classes, taking a carload of friends to the drive-in, and a mere three-month driving permit. The rules have changed!
“I was eligible for a learner’s permit at age 15 3/4, practiced for three months (with no quota of hours), took a road test, and then got a driver’s license,” shared Castle Pines resident and mom to a soon-to-be teen driver, Jessica Kirby. “As a parent, that thought actually terrifies me – I didn’t drive in inclement weather a single time with my learner’s permit!”
Depending on age, teens today are required to take upwards of 30 hours in a driver’s education program before even receiving a permit. Then, with a permit in hand, teen drivers must complete at least 50 hours of logged driving time with a parent or guardian (10 hours must be at night) during the next twelve months to be eligible for a license.
“We didn’t realize that you really have to plan well ahead, research the training facilities and their schedules, and schedule vacations and sports commitments carefully if you have a busy teen who is eager to get their learner’s permit at 15,” said Kirby.
Teens should make the most of their time in the car even before it’s time to learn to drive. “Before you begin driving, put away your cell phone and pay attention when you drive with your parents. You’ll learn from watching them, although you may see some things you’ll learn later not to do, and you’ll see how poorly many other motorists drive. This will emphasize to you how important defensive driving is,” said Guy Postlewait, a driving instructor for Cruisers Teen Driving in Castle Rock.
Another suggestion from Postlewait is for teens to utilize parents for parking lot basics and early practice before working with a driving instructor. “Drive for ten hours or so before starting with your instructor. Use instructor hours to learn important skills and unlearn bad habits. Using instructor hours to learn how to drive around a parking lot is not the best use of your investment,” said Postlewait.
Insurance companies can provide estimates to insure new drivers and additional vehicles as well as available discounts. “I would highly recommend an approved driver training class. These classes can be found all over the state and online,” said Tammy Lopez, of Allstate Insurance in Castle Pines. Lopez’s company provides a 25 percent discount for completion of an approved driver safety course and a 10 percent discount for good grades (3.0 GPA). Some insurance companies even offer teen tracking devices to monitor speeding and more.
Once a teen makes the leap from permit to license, the law stipulates graduated driver’s license (GDL) requirements to help gradually increase privileges as teens have more time and experience behind the wheel. For example, during the first six months, only passengers who are 21 and older may ride in the vehicle. For the second six months, only one passenger who is under the age of 21 can ride in the vehicle (exception in both instances is for siblings and medical emergencies).
According to Deputy Chad Teller of the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office (DCSO), there are many laws in place to help keep teens safe on the road. Texting is illegal for all drivers, but for teens, cellphone use altogether is against the law. Drivers under the age of 18 can only use a cell phone to call 911 in an emergency. Additionally, drinking and driving never mix; even a trace of alcohol on a minor is punishable by law. When broken, these laws, as well as the GDL passenger limits, carry fines and points and may include community service or loss of driving privileges altogether. Furthermore, parents can take away a minor’s license (under 18) at any time, for any reason. So, in other words, teens … be safe and be smart!
“For the safety of them and other drivers, teens need to know that it’s a responsibility and a privilege to drive. If that privilege is abused, then it can and will be taken away,” said Teller. “We know teens will be excited about driving, as they should be, but we want everyone to be safe. Be aware of what’s going on around you and make good choices,” said Teller.
For more information, visit Colorado Department of Revenue/Division of Motor Vehicles at https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/dmv/licenses and Colorado Department of Transportation at https://www.codot.gov/programs/colorado-teen-drivers/Teens.