The Legal Age for Getting a Full License Varies by State
It’s called a rite of passage; the day a teenager goes from a restricted driver’s license to driving independently with no special restrictions. Depending on where you live, earning a full license can take up to three years, during which time parents and guardians hope their young driver begins to comprehend the seriousness of getting behind the wheel. Sadly, for too many teen drivers, a fun outing turns into tragedy, and age and inexperience are mostly to blame.
Vehicle crashes kill thousands of teens yearly.
States determine when young people can obtain a full driver’s license; the age ranges from 16.5 to 18 years old across the U.S. Colorado has a Graduated Drivers License (GDL) that requires a teen to go through a three-step process to obtain a full driver’s license. A teen can begin the process at 15 and have full driving privileges by age 17.
Despite this learning process in Colorado and other states, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that motor vehicle crashes continue to be deadly for U.S. teens. Officials say that teen drivers are three times as likely to be involved in a fatal auto accident as drivers of any other age group. And, it is not only teen drivers dying, but teen passengers are getting killed as well. A leading non-profit tasked with tracking the leading causes of U.S. deaths notes that 2,476 teens lost their lives in crashes in 2018.
Colorado teens are not immune. According to the Colorado Department of Transportation, the average number of fatal crashes involving teens in 2017 and 2018 was 34 percent higher than the average from 2005 and 2016. Officials say many factors can cause a car accident, but one of the glaring issues has to do with risks that younger drivers take when they get behind the wheel.
Human error is a top reason for teen auto accidents.
Simply put, problems attributed to human error result from something a human does or doesn’t do. Vehicle crashes attributed to human error may result from speeding, not wearing a seatbelt, driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or driving distracted. The National Safety Council (NSC) notes that more than 90 percent of all car crashes involve human error; due to inexperience, young drivers are most at risk for this behavior. Here are some of the top mistakes young drivers make and found this age group is:
- Most likely to speed, with male drivers more at risk than female drivers
- Most likely to use a cell phone while driving, with 36 percent of young drivers questioned admitted to doing so
- Drive drunk, with 42 percent of DUI fatalities caused by drivers 16-24 years of age
- Eat or do other things that cause a distraction
Safety is key, and it starts with establishing responsible behavior when behind the wheel by focusing on driving and the environment around you. It also means being prepared in other ways. Young drivers, who more than likely are sharing vehicles, need to make sure the seat and all mirrors are in the correct position so they can see everything clearly before departure. Problematic road conditions are also a challenge for an inexperienced driver, so if there’s inclement weather, reschedule your trip until the conditions are better. Wet and icy roads can be especially challenging and an inexperienced driver will tend to overreact when something unexpected happens, and that can cause an auto accident.
If you have a passenger with you, prepare that person as well. You, as the driver, need to focus on the road and the other drivers around you, not on conversing with a passenger. Simple steps can go a long way in making our roads safe, especially for younger, less experienced drivers. For young drivers, prepare your safety list before heading out and make sure you abide by it. Your life and the lives of others could depend on it.