Navigating the GDLWhen you were a teen, you likely received Driver’s Education as part of your normal school curriculum.  It was free, convenient, and designed so you could walk into the DMV and get your license on your 16th birthday.  Now you have a teen yourself and they want to drive, but they need money for an online class, professional instruction, and they want YOU to sit in the passenger seat while they log 50 hours behind the wheel.


Things are different now.

In July of 1999, due to several tragic car accidents, Colorado followed a national trend and instituted a Graduated Licensing Program (GDL) for teens.  Instead of being offered by public schools, driver’s training is now offered by private companies.  Sorry folks, the process is more expensive and complicated than it was in ye olden days.  But the important thing to remember is this: the GDL is designed to help your child be a safe driver.  If it works, it’s worth it.

Here is an abbreviated version the route to teen licensure in Colorado.  Check the DMV website for full details:

  • Age 14 ½: Students may take a 30 hour driver’s education course in class or online.
  • Age 15: Students who have completed the 30 hour course may apply for driver education permit, complete 6 hours of professional behind-the-wheel training and an additional 50 hours of driving practice with a parent or designee.  After holding the permit for one year, students may apply for a minor license, which includes restrictions on night driving and number of passengers.
  • Age 15 ½: If students wait until age 15 ½ to apply for a permit, the requirement for classroom training drops from 30 hours of driver’s education to a 4 hour driver awareness class, after which students may apply for a driver awareness permit.  They must still complete 50 hours of supervised driving and hold the permit for one year before applying for a license.
  • Age 16:  If students wait until age 16 to visit the DMV, no classroom training is required.  They simply apply for a minor instruction permit, complete 50 hours of supervised driving, and hold the permit for one year.
  • Age 18:  If a student waits until age 18 to go to the DMV for the first time, most requirements no longer apply.  They must still apply for a permit but do not need to hold it for any length of time, and need only pass a driving test to receive a minor license.

Sound complicated?

Here’s what to know: GLDs are worth the hassle if you start early.  Studies show GLDs reduce teen crashes by 10 to 30 percent.  However, according to a 2011 study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association, while GDLs decreased fatal crashes among 16-year-olds, crashes among 18-year-olds actually increased.  This is likely due to the lack of training required as teens grow older.  Teens who skip the GDL process lack the classroom and behind-the-wheel training of their GDL peers.

It’s Worth It

In other words, experience counts.  So put in those 50 hours with your teen.  Yes, it takes time.  Yes, it can be a little scary.  But with the right attitude, teaching your child to drive can also be fun!  Just think, years from now you can reminisce about that time you got lost in Wyoming, or drove to world-famous Wall Drug!

After all, your teen is learning to drive.  They are taking a big step toward independence, from you!

Article by Molly Fuscher

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