Seven Warning Signs Your Teen is an Unsafe Driver

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(COLO) – Earning a driver’s license is just the beginning for young adults on their journey to become safe and responsible drivers. It’s National Teen Driver Safety Week and the Colorado State Patrol wants parents and caregivers to know seven “red flags” that could help them determine if their teen is being safe behind the wheel.

“Getting insight into how your child drives is a challenge since we know people are more diligent when someone that loves them is watching,” explains Col. Matthew C. Packard, chief of the Colorado State Patrol. “This list provides some common indicators to help parents know when to have a meaningful conversation with their child and possibly put the keys away until trust is re-earned. As tough as it is, it’s critical for parents to stay involved because we know that the first few years behind the wheel can be dangerous as new drivers gain experience.”

When the Colorado State Patrol looked at the last three years of fatal and injury crash data (2019-2021) for at-fault drivers between the ages of 16-21, the top crash causal factors were:

  1. Distraction – inattentive to driving
  2. Exceeding a safe and lawful speed
  3. Lane violation – traveled outside of its designated lane
  4. Impaired driving
  5. Failed to yield the right-of-way

In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that drivers under 20 are three times more likely to be in a car crash than all other drivers. So how does a parent know when they should be concerned?

Seven Warning Signs

  1. She/he always has a friend or two in the car. Your teen may argue that carpooling is good for the environment and saves gas money, but traveling with passengers increases the likelihood that they will get into a car accident.
    1. Colorado GDL Laws state that for the first six months, no passengers under 21 (siblings and medical emergencies excepted), unless a parent or other licensed adult over 21 is in the vehicle.
    2. For the next six months, one passenger under 21.
  2. You catch him/her not wearing a seat belt. If you still have to remind your teenager to buckle up, they haven’t grasped the seriousness of a possible crash.
  3. Your child answers your calls or texts when you know he/she is driving. If your teen frequently answers your calls or texts while they are behind the wheel, then chances are they typically answer calls or texts from others as well.
  4. The car is overflowing with food wrappers or you notice makeup on the driver’s seat/vanity mirror. A good place to find indications of unsafe driving is inside your teen's car. Eating and applying makeup behind the wheel are other forms of distracted driving and can be surprisingly dangerous.
  5. Your child returns home at night farther and farther past curfew. Parents may have established specific curfew restrictions for their teenagers, but the state also enforces curfews for drivers under 18. According to Colorado, in the first year as a licensed driver, your teen must abide by a curfew of no driving between midnight and 5 a.m. unless accompanied by an instructor, parent or legal guardian.
  6. She/he is constantly blasting loud music in the car. If you can hear your teen coming down the street, then their music is turned up dangerously loud. Loud music creates a significant hazard for drivers making it hard to hear critical audible cues from other drivers, like a car horn or another vehicle accelerating nearby.
  7. Your child has had a number of close calls and fender benders. When learning to drive, everyone makes mistakes. Hopefully, those mistakes are minor, and no one gets hurt. But if your teen has added one too many dings and scratches to the car, or been in multiple accidents, it may be time to scale back their driving privileges until they’ve had more practice.


Since our origin in 1935, the Colorado State Patrol (CSP) has focused on preserving human life and protecting property within our communities. Our 1,100 members embody the core values of Honor, Duty, and Respect in their daily jobs.  In addition to our expertise in motor vehicle safety on the state’s roadways, the CSP is responsible for the Governor and other dignitaries’ protection, commercial motor vehicle enforcement, hazardous materials, homeland security, communications, investigative services, criminal interdiction, community education, aviation operations, and more.