Jan 24, 2023 - News

Driver's ed could soon be mandatory for minors in Colorado

A driver's license office in west Denver in 2015. Photo: RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via Getty Images

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 β€” 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 β€” 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 β€” including Sen. Cleave Simpson (R-Alamosa) and Rep. Cathy Kipp (D-Fort Collins) β€” 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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