So, Your Kid Wants to Drive: How to Get a Learner’s Permit
Your kid wants to drive. Say no.
Tell him driving is for creepers, griefers, and trolls. Driving will give him acne in his armpits and make him smell like thrift shop zebra-striped leggings. Ask your teen if this is a good thing. Do whatever you can to dissuade your personal youngster from climbing behind a steering wheel. Just kidding.
Good parents set kids free to explore and drive to babysitting jobs, solo. Also, I hear driving children come in very handy when you’re cooking dinner and discover you’re fresh out of canned button marinated parsnips.
I have a daughter of driving age. She will be 16 this summer, but wasn’t interested in driving until very recently. Because of Colorado’s current licensing laws, she may not have her full license until she’s close to 17. All drivers must have a learner’s permit for one year, so we are just starting to navigate the infinite universe of DMV bureaucracy.
When teens drive well and have the maturity to respect laws, everyone benefits. The leading cause of death in teens is car accidents. But new graduated driver’s licensing laws, along with safer automobiles, have worked together to reduce the death toll in teens. From 1995-2010, fatalities of 16-year-old drivers dropped by 69%*. That’s a stunning and significant number. Amongst 17-year-olds, fatalities dropped 51% in the same time period*. There never has been a safer time to be a teen behind the wheel. But it’s daunting to get them started. Here’s a run-down of what you need to know to get your Colorado kid on the road:
The Driver’s Education Permit for Age 15 Years to 15 Years, 6 Months**:
Within six months of obtaining a permit, your child must complete a 30-hour classroom/road instruction course. Luckily, this can be done at a certified driving school OR online. Because there’s a six-month window, your child can technically begin to take a classroom driving course beginning at age 14 1/2—but he or she will not receive a permit until age 15 at the earliest.
With proof of classroom instruction (and passing the course) in-hand, go to the DMV with your kid, his birth certificate (or other state-approved ID), proof of residency, and social security number. You will need to prove you are a legal guardian of your own child by completing an Affidavit of Liability Guardianship (DR2460) form. Only the person who signed this form, along with a certified driving instructor, may log the 50 hours of road-time your child will need to get a license. Your child may drive with other adults over age 21 supervising, but that time will not count toward his license. Your child will also need to pass a written exam and a vision exam, so make sure he’s had a recent vision test. Once given a permit, it’s good for 3 years.
The Driver’s Awareness Permit for Age 15 years, 6 months to Age 16**:
The paperwork is basically the same: birth certificate/ID, social security number, a completed DR2460 form, and she will still need to pass the written and vision tests.
However, she will have more options regarding classroom instruction. Just like younger 15-year-olds, she can complete the 30-hour classroom course. Or, she can take a 4-hour pre-qualification driver awareness program. She will still need to have her permit for one full year and log in at least 50 hours of road time (to be tallied by the person on the DR2460 form or certified instructor.)
The Minor Instruction Permit for Ages 16 years to 21 years**:
Again, the initial paperwork remains the same. If your child is under age 18, you will still need to fill out the DR2460 form.
No formal driver’s education program or class is necessary. You can waltz right in with your 16-year-old and get a permit without paying for driving school or classroom time. However, you will still need to log in 50 hours of driving time and your child must have the permit for one full year.
How Do I Find a Certified Driving School or 4-Hour Driver Awareness Course?
The Colorado Department of Revenue maintains a list of approved driver’s education programs. Click here to get to the page. On the bottom of the page is a link to a spreadsheet with driving schools. You will need to expand the window to see the full list. These are schools which charge fees and are not operated by the state. Most school districts have eliminated driver education programs, which is a shame.
In the near future, you may encounter my daughter out on the road with me or my husband clutching the interior. You may spot her in a check-out line a year from now, buying canned button marinated parsnips. Without me.
* Statistics are from Teenage Driver Fatalities by State, compiled by the Governors Highway Safety Association, 2011. (pdf here)
** Permit-obtaining information from The Colorado Department of Revenue Smart Start.