Colorado Parents Hold Key to Saving Teen Driver's Lives

October 17, 2011 - Traffic Safety - National Teen Driver Safety Week, Oct 16-22

DENVER --   Parents of teenagers may think they do not have much influence on their kids, but when it comes to safe driving, they do – and it could mean a difference between life and death.   Motor vehicle crashes are the number one killer of teens in the U.S.   In 2010, 63 young drivers age 15 to 20 were involved in fatal crashes in Colorado and 49 in this age group were killed.  More than 60% of those killed were not wearing a seat belt.

This week marks National Teen Driver Safety Week and Colorado’s Teen Driving Alliance urges all parents to get involved when it comes to preparing teenagers to be safe and responsible drivers.  The Alliance is a group of government agencies, law enforcement and private partners working together to reduce teen driving fatalities and injuries.

“Parents truly have the power to keep their teenagers safer by monitoring their driving behavior more closely and enforcing teen driving laws at home,” said Col. James Wolfinbarger, chief of the Colorado State Patrol.  “Passenger restrictions and cell phone bans for young drivers can save lives, but we need parents to help make sure the rules are followed at home.  Sit down and talk with your teenager about safety, the rules and consequences.”

Colorado’s Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) laws are designed to phase-in beginning drivers, with various requirements depending on the teenager’s age when they start the permit process.  All teen drivers must log 50 hours of practice driving with a parent or legal guardian.  Experts recommend using this practice time wisely by exposing teens to a variety of road types and weather conditions.  But the learning process should not end once a teen gets his or her license.

According to a study released last week by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, teen drivers are 50% more likely to crash during the first month of driving on their own than they are after a full year of experience.  And it takes teen drivers two years of experience to cut their accident rate in half.

“Parents need to stay involved in the learning process even after teens begin driving independently,” said Wave Dreher, AAA Colorado.  “It’s important to continue working with your teen on their driving skills, particularly those involving the three most common mistakes -- failure to reduce speed, failure to yield and inattention.”

Distractions are also a big issue facing new drivers due to the growing popularity of electronic devices, as well as the distractions of other passengers in the car.  In Colorado, it is against the law for any teen driver under age 18 to talk or text on a cell phone while driving.  And Colorado’s GDL laws prohibit teen drivers from having any passengers under age 21 for the first six months of their license, and then only one passenger under 21 for the second six months.

“Over the past decade, the number of teenagers killed in crashes in Colorado has dropped by more than 50%,” said Don Hunt, executive director of the Colorado Department of Transportation.  “We must all continue working together to help young drivers learn safe driving habits by being responsible drivers ourselves and always buckling up.”

Before teen drivers get behind the wheel on their own, experts suggest parents sign a contract with their teenager that outlines clear rules and has specific consequences if they are broken.  A sample teen driving contract can be downloaded at