Driver's ed could soon be mandatory for minors in Colorado
The days of optional driver's education courses for Colorado teenagers may soon be in the rearview mirror.
What's happening: A bill moving through the state Legislature would require people under the age of 21 to take a driver's ed course before receiving an instructional permit or license.
- The legislation also would create a refundable income tax credit, up to $1,000 per student, for qualifying taxpayers who cover instructional expenses for minors.
Why it matters: The goal of the bill, proponents say, is to reduce crashes on Colorado roadways and ensure adolescents are adequately trained before hitting the highway.
By the numbers: Traffic deaths among drivers ages 15 to 20 have been on the rise since at least 2019, according to the latest data from the Colorado Department of Transportation.
- The number of young driver fatalities rose to 35 in 2022 from 24 in 2019.
State of play: Under current law, anyone in Colorado over the age of 16 can receive their permit without formal driving instruction. However, 15-year-olds must meet certain requirements, such as taking a 30-hour driver education course.
- Under the new bill, Colorado minors would need to complete a 30-hour class — plus six hours of driving with an instructor, or 12 hours with a parent if no training facility is offered within 30 miles.
- For those 18 to 21, the measure would mandate they complete a four-hour prequalification driver awareness program or a 30-hour driver education course.
What they're saying: "We know that it's a very big responsibility to get behind the wheel of a car — and it requires both training and behind-the-wheel training," the bill's prime sponsor, state Sen. Faith Winter (D-Westminster), said Tuesday during the Senate Transportation and Energy Committee.
- "We worked really hard to make sure it's affordable and accessible to everyone in Colorado," she added.
The other side: Despite the income tax credit, some critics — including Sen. Cleave Simpson (R-Alamosa) and Rep. Cathy Kipp (D-Fort Collins) — worry the bill will only add to the climbing costs of obtaining a driver's license in Colorado, particularly for low-income families.
- Driving tests at third-party schools cost up to $115, Colorado Politics reports. DriveSafe, the largest driving school in the state, prices its online 30-hour course at $109 and behind-the-wheel training at $549.
What's next: The Senate committee advanced the bill Monday in a 4-2 vote, without amendments. The measure moves to the Senate Finance Committee next before heading to the full chamber.
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