The Skinny on Colorado’s Youngest Drivers

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(Colo.) – Over the next two weeks, schools will be out, temperatures will move from mild to hot, and graduation parties will be in full swing. As your teen or young adult heads out the door and jumps in their vehicle, do you know if they are making safe choices behind the wheel?

“You may be surprised to know you have more influence than you think, but only if you remain aware during this high-risk period and set a safe example yourself,” stated Chief Matthew C. Packard, Colorado State Patrol. “Teen drivers often have a higher rate of crashes as they gain experience, practice their skills, and develop their maturity. They do make mistakes and get distracted easily, so help your teen by staying involved.”

After reviewing traffic citations issued by the Colorado State Patrol over the last two years (2019 and 2020), the most common charges issued to drivers between the age of 16-21 remained identical. The top five charges in the order of volume were:

  • Speeding: 10 – 19 miles over.
  • Speeding: 20 – 39 miles over.
  • Careless Driving, including failure to yield the right of way.
  • Driving vehicle without a seat belt in use.
  • Failing to present evidence of insurance upon request.

“As younger drivers gain confidence, we often find speed becoming an issue, so parents who monitor this while explaining the importance of posted speed limits can help” explained, Chief Packard. “We also know that teens and young adults take greater risks. Lack of seatbelt use is prominent with this age demographic. Sadly, lack of seatbelt use is also deadly.”

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), seat belt use is the lowest among teens.  Even more troubling, NHTSA found that when a teen driver involved in the fatal crash was unbuckled, nine out of 10 of the passengers who died were also unbuckled.

While proactive traffic stops work to prevent needless crashes, many still occur. Of the crashes investigated by the Colorado State Patrol in 2019 and 2020, the top five casual factors for the at-fault driver between age 16-21 were consistent year over year:

  1. Inattentive to Driving
  2. Exceeding Safe Speed
  3. Following too Closely
  4. Lane Violation (traveling outside of designated lane)
  5. Animal Caused (animal known to be the root cause of the crash)

Talking to your young driver regularly about rules and responsibilities as well as setting a good example makes an impact. Parents should also ensure they understand Colorado’s graduated driver licensing law. Beyond the rules to obtain a permit and get a license, there are many rules for licensed drivers under the age of 18, including the number of passengers allowed in their vehicle, hours your teen can drive, and the requirement to wear a seatbelt and carry proof of insurance every time they drive.

Being proactive and setting consequences for distracted driving, speeding, and failure to wear a seat belt is crucial for your young driver during this high-risk age period. While it is never fun to suspend your teen’s driving privileges, further limiting the hours during which they can drive, or limiting the places where they can drive, showing your developing driver that you are aware and care matters!

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ABOUT THE COLORADO STATE PATROL
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. For additional information, visit us online at Colorado State Patrol or follow us on TwitterInstagram, YouTube, or Facebook.