Colorado Teenage Driving Laws

Colorado teenage driving laws include restrictions on driving hours and underage vehicle occupants.
Written by Andrea Barrett
Reviewed by Kathleen Flear
background
Teen drivers in the state of
Colorado
are subject to stricter driving laws due to the high risks associated with new drivers. Teenagers with a
Colorado driver's license
may not transport passengers under 21 without adult supervision, and teens with a driver's permit must not drive alone. 

Rules for teen drivers in Colorado

The number of fatalities involving young drivers has decreased by more than 50% in the last two decades, but more recently, the trend has been steadily increasing. Between 2017 and 2019, there were 82 young drivers involved in fatal crashes in Colorado—a 28% increase from previous years. 
The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) launched a public awareness campaign to educate teen drivers on the driving laws that specifically apply to them—it’s called Colorado’s Graduated Drivers Licensing (GDL) laws. These laws keep drivers 18 and under safe on the road and limit dangerous driving situations before they “graduate” to a full license with unrestricted driving privileges. 
However, driving laws for drivers under 18 in Colorado differ based on the type of license they hold—an instructional permit or an intermediate license. We will cover the rules for both, so you’re fully aware of the laws before you’re out on the road.

With an instructional permit

The
minimum driving age in Colorado
is 15 years old. Once you reach legal driving age, you can schedule a written and vision test to receive an instructional permit, so long as a parent or legal guardian also accompanies you to sign an affidavit of liability. Once you have the permit, there are a few rules you need to abide by:
  • New drivers must not drive between midnight and 5 a.m. unless accompanied by a parent or guardian, have a signed document stating they're traveling to a school- or work-related function, or are an emancipated minor.
  • You must not drive with any passengers under 21 years of age (except for siblings) until you’ve held your permit for at least six months.
  • You must not drive with more than one passenger under 21 years of age (except for siblings) until you’ve held your permit for at least six months.
  • You must not use a cell phone for any reason while driving, including hands-free talking or texting.
  • Under the age of 21, any trace amount of alcohol in your system is prohibited
On top of these restrictions, there are a few other things you’ll need to complete before you can graduate to the next driver’s license level:
  • You must hold the permit for a minimum of 12 months (if obtained at 15 years old).
  • Complete a state-approved driver’s education course.
  • Complete six hours of behind-the-wheel training from a licensed instructor (12 hours if completed with a parent)
However, keep in mind that if you obtain a driver’s license at 15-and-a-half years old, the rules are slightly different. While you must also hold the permit for 12 months and complete 50 hours of driving time (including ten hours at night), you don’t have to complete a driver’s education course. Instead, you’re required to complete a four-hour driver awareness program before you can obtain a minor driver's license.
Youth between the ages of 16 and 18 are also not required to complete a driver's education course, but they must complete 50 hours of driving time (with ten hours at night) and hold the instruction permit for 12 months.
Once you’ve completed these requirements and logged 50 hours of practice driving time10 of which must be at night—on your
Drive Time Log Sheet
, you can apply for a minor driver's license!
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With a minor’s license

Once you’ve completed the requirements and held your learner's permit for at least 12 months, Colorado teens can apply for a minor’s permit. Before applying for a minor’s permit, you’ll need to pass a written Driving Knowledge Test from a driver education school and provide the proper Colorado identification documents. You can find more information on how to apply for a minor’s permit and schedule an appointment on the
Colorado DMV website
.
Once a teenager earns a Colorado minor permit, they have a bit more freedom—but the rules of the road don’t open up completely! Anyone under 21 must first obtain a minor driver's license after completing a vision test, a driving test, and the requirements stated above. 
Like a learner’s permit, teens are still subject to certain restrictions based on age. 
Drivers under 21 years old:
  • Cannot drive with any passengers under 21 for the first six months of having a minor’s license
  • After six months—but for the first year of holding the license—can have one passenger under 21 (except for family members and emergencies) if accompanied by a licensed parent or adult over 21
Drivers under 18 years old:
  • Must have an affidavit of liability from a parent or legal guardian 
  • Can only have one passenger in the front seat
  • All passengers must be wearing a seatbelt in the vehicle
  • Cellphone use while driving is prohibited 
  • Cannot drive between midnight and 5 a.m.
Of course, there are exceptions to the rule. Teen drivers driving to/from school/work can drive between midnight and 5 a.m. if they provide a signed statement from school/work. Curfews are also excusable if it is a medical emergency and the driver is an emancipated minor. 
You must always carry a signed note if driving outside Colorado’s legal curfew hours for your license class. If you get pulled over between 12 a.m. and 5 a.m. while driving as a minor, you’ll want to have that note handy to show local authorities (as well as your driver’s license,
vehicle registration
, and
proof of insurance
)! 
Remember that while these exceptions allow you to drive during restricted hours, they don’t exempt you from following the other teen driver laws.

Colorado teenage drivers and cell phone use

With the increasing prevalence of mobile phones among younger people,
texting and driving
is a serious concern for parents of teen drivers and others on the road. Using a cell phone while operating a vehicle to text, talk, or check social media is a form of distracted driving that can lead to serious consequences. According to the
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
, thousands of car accidents and deaths happen yearly due to mobile phone use behind the wheel. 
But the rules in Colorado for cell phone use for teenage drivers under 18 are simple: using a cell phone (including hands-free) is illegal for all teenagers while operating a motor vehicle. Don’t text; don’t make or receive calls; don’t touch your phone behind the wheel. Violating the cell phone law results in a fine starting at $50 and runs the risk of losing your license.
One exception to Colorado’s cell phone law exists: teenage drivers can use a phone behind the wheel only for emergencies to call local emergency services (police or fire department). However, always ensure your vehicle is parked before making the call. 
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Penalties for violating Colorado teen driving laws

Once you have a license, you must follow all traffic laws to keep your driving privileges. Failure to obey Colorado’s GDL laws will incur you
driver's license points
. Each violation receives two points—three violations before you turn 18 will result in license revocation. Violations also come with fines and community service.
Teenage drivers with a valid license are subject to the following penalties for certain violations: 
  • Curfew violation: 8 to 24 hours of community service and a fine of up to $50 for a first offense; second and subsequent offenses receive 16 to 40 hours of community service and up to $100 fine ($150 for a third offense)
  • Failure to obey the no talk/text law: 1 point on your license and a $57 fine for the 1st offense; $107 for any subsequent offenses
  • Failure to provide proof of valid insurance: Ten days to one year in jail and a minimum $500 fine; the minimum fine for a second offense within five years is $1,000
  • Failure to appear in court for a traffic ticket: Issue of a bench warrant and possible license suspension while the warrant is outstanding
The penalties for teen drivers vary based on the violation. Still, any violation of the teenage driving laws could result in fines, driver's license points, and a license suspension that could lead to losing driving privileges. 
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