(COLORADO SPRINGS) — State leaders are proposing a new bill that would require teenagers to complete up to 36 hours of driver’s education to be eligible for a driver’s license. A Colorado Senate committee advanced the bill Mon. Feb. 6.
If passed, Senate Bill 11 would mandate that Coloradans under the age of 18 take a 30-hour driver’s education course and receive at least six hours of behind-the-wheel driving training from an instructor before being issued a driver’s license.
The bill would also require those over 18 but under 21 years old to complete a four-hour driver awareness program to get a driver’s license.
Critics noted the bill would raise the costs for first-time drivers, but its sponsor Senator Faith Winter, D-Westminster, said it is intended to increase road safety by better preparing young drivers.
Lawmakers are working hard to make driver’s education more affordable by offering scholarships and identifying online driver’s education courses that start as low as $40, not including the mandated six hours of behind-the-wheel training.
“Accessibility has been really important in this bill, which is why I know there are at least three programs that are online,” Sen. Winter said. “
Currently, state law only requires those between 15 and 16 years old to complete driver’s education courses to get a learner’s permit.
“We need to change how we do driver’s education training, we essentially created a system that was incentivizing young people to wait and get less training,” Sen. Winter explained. “Especially for rural areas, there’s a way that you’re behind the wheel training can be free.”
Colorado’s traffic fatalities have been on the rise for more than a decade. Experts say to combat this, it all starts with education.
“It is no secret to anybody driving out there, especially up and down Interstate 25, that our roads just feel a lot more dangerous,” Skyler McKinley, a spokesman for AAA Colorado explained. “We know from research that you are about twice as likely to be injured in a crash if you don’t go to driver’s education.”
The bill now heads to the Colorado Capitol for further consideration. In the meantime, National Driver Training in Colorado Springs is open for business and continues to educate Southern Colorado drivers.
“It’s much better to do some driver’s education training than to have to fix your car or than get a ticket or something along those lines,” Caleb Horn a driver instructor at National Driver Training said.
In 2022, 745 people died in crashes on Colorado roads – up from 691 in 2021, 622 in 2020, and an average of 638 annually since 2017, according to a report from the Department of Transportation.
“We get people that come in and say they’ve been getting driving advice from social media or videos online,” Horn explained. “Sometimes there’s good advice there but it’s not necessarily the same stuff you’ll see in your driver handbook and your driver’s education course, that’s where you should be learning this stuff.”
As the Minor Driver’s Education Requirements bill is up for consideration, Sen. Winter is hoping for bipartisan support.
“Regardless of what district you represent or how red or blue it is, people are dying on our roads,” Sen. Winter explained. “There is a training need to ensure that we are making safer roads to set up our young people for success and that’s why it should be bipartisan.”
AAA reports Colorado’s roads have changed a lot since the state last looked at driver’s education, while our state has ballooned in population.
“If this bill saves one life, that’s significant,” McKinley said. “It’s going to be life-changing for that life and the family members of that life saved, this bill is going to save a lot of lives.”