The freedom that comes with getting a driver’s license is a big part of teenage life. Unfortunately, unsupervised teenage driving also has the potential to be very dangerous.
Teen driving regulations have helped to improve safety, but car accidents are still the leading cause of death for Americans between the ages of 15 and 20. According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2010, 1,963 teen drivers were killed and 187,000 were injured in motor vehicle accidents. All told, the NHTSA says that drivers between the ages of 15 and 20 are responsible for approximately 10 percent of all fatal car accidents in the United States.
Much of the risk comes from the fact that teenagers’ brains aren’t as fully developed as adults’. As a result, they have worse decision-making skills and are more likely to take risks. Combine that with inexperience behind the wheel, and it is not hard to see why teen driving accidents happen.
Parents can do a lot to help teens stay safe while driving. The NHTSA recommends that parents have intentional conversations with their teenagers and set clear rules about behavior behind the wheel. The NHTSA recommends starting with the following tips:
- Know the law: All states have graduated driver’s license programs for teen drivers. Most come with restrictions, including limits on passengers and the times of day when teens can drive. Make sure you and your teen know the law in your state and follow it at all times.
- Create a contract: Set clear rules with your teen and establish penalties for violating those rules ahead of time. If your teen breaks the rules, be sure to follow through with the appropriate punishment.
- Put the phone away: Distracted driving is one of the biggest risks for teen drivers. Make sure your teen knows that using a cellphone — for texting, talking or anything else — while driving is not allowed.
- Talk about drinking:Drunk driving is a factor in more than 20 percent of all fatal crashes involving young drivers. Assure your teens that they will not get in trouble for calling home for a ride if they or another driver has been drinking.
Colorado teen driving laws
In Colorado, teen drivers are issued a restricted license until at least age 17. Though that license allows teens to drive without having an adult in the car, the privilege does come with some restrictions. Teens with restricted licenses are not permitted to drive between the hours of midnight and 5 a.m. During the first six months of the license, teen drivers may not carry any non-family passengers. During the second six months, they are limited to no more than one non-family passenger.
Colorado’s teen driver restrictions are designed to keep all motorists safe. However, they only work if parents do their part to hold teens accountable. If you are the parent of a young driver, be sure to talk to them about following the rules of the road.