To further reduce traffic fatalities among young drivers, Colorado is looking to increase enforcement of its Graduated Driver Licensing Law.

Colorado is among the states that have developed and released a strategic highway safety plan, which is a cooperative effort among public agencies, private sector organizations, and advocacy groups who represent transportation interests statewide. One of the main goals of Colorado’s collaboration is to effectively improve safety on the state’s roadways.

The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) is spearheading a major campaign that has come out of this planning session. “Moving Towards Zero Deaths” sets a goal of zero deaths for everyone using the state’s transportation network. The effort has a major emphasis on Colorado’s young drivers, and for a good reason.

No. 1 Killer of Young Drivers

Colorado defines a young driver as one who is 15 to 20 years old. According to research, this age group’s lack of driving experience can lead to poor decision-making in the event of an emergency and risky behavior, such as speeding.

When it comes to crashes, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that car accidents are the leading cause of death for those 16-19 years old. In 2014, the CDC noted that 2,270 teens were killed in car accidents across the country, while another 221,313 were treated for injuries. This means that every day, six teenagers are killed in motor vehicle accidents.

When it comes to young drivers in Colorado, the trend is more positive. The latest statistics, representing 2008-2012, show a 10 percent decrease in fatal crashes involving young drivers. Serious injuries also fell 9 percent.

While this sounds promising, dozens of young Colorado drivers are still killed or injured in accidents. In 2012, the most recent year for which numbers are available, 81 young drivers were killed, and another 611 were seriously injured. That’s down from 2007, when 93 young drivers were killed and 863 were seriously injured.

Colorado’s Graduated Driver’s Licensing

During the 1990s, Governors Highway Safety Association launched the Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) program. Shortly after that, some states began implementing the program as law. GDL requires a young candidate for a driver’s license to go through two intermediate steps before being allowed to drive with no restrictions. The three stages of licensing are:

  • Stage 1, or learner stage: Supervised driving, cumulating with a driving test
  • Stage 2, or intermediate stage: Limited unsupervised driving in high-risk situations
  • Stage 3, or full-privilege stage: Obtaining a full driver’s license

While young drivers may find the stages a bit restrictive, state officials say stronger enforcement of this law has contributed to the decline in driver-involved fatalities and injuries, which is always a good thing.

Pushing Colorado Roadway Safety

Moving forward, Colorado officials say they will continue collaborating with other agencies and organizations to promote practices that reduce motor vehicle accidents among young drivers. This approach includes advocating for more funding to produce more teen auto safety programs.

In addition, Colorado is looking to increase enforcement of the GDL law, as well as educating parents about the law with the ultimate goal of decreasing the number of the deaths and injuries among young drivers.

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