Licensing & State Laws

Even though your teen is now licensed and driving alone, Colorado’s multi-stage licensing process is still at work.

Instruction Permit

Teens between ages 15 and 17, who want an instruction permit must present a certified birth certificate or other acceptable forms of identification, pass a written exam and a vision screening test. Teens and parent/guardian must also complete an Affidavit of Liability and Guardianship (DR2460).Teens seeking an instruction permit between ages 15 and 15½ must present an “affidavit of completion” for a state-approved, 30-hour driver education course and will receive a Driver’s Education Permit. Teens between 15½ and 16 must have completed either driver education or a four-hour driver awareness course and will get a Driver’s Awareness Permit. Teens age 16 to 17 may apply without having completed either of these courses and will receive a Minor Instruction Permit.

With an instruction permit, a teen may drive with a parent, guardian or other licensed driver age 21 or older. Teens with an instruction permit must complete 50 hours of certified practice driving with a driver ed instructor and/or the parent/guardian who signed the DR2460 affidavit (or an “alternate permit supervisor” designated by the parent/guardian).

Minor Driver’s License

When teens turn 16, they are eligible for a minor driver’s license if they meet requirements that differ based on their age and when they got their instruction permit. All applicants under age 18 must have held the instruction permit for 12 months and passed a driving test. Teens who obtained an instruction permit before age 16 by completing driver education must also complete 6 hours of behind the wheel training to receive a minor driver’s license. (Teens who do not have an approved school offering at least 20 hours of driver education per week within 30 miles of their residence may substitute an additional 12 hours of practice driving for the behind the wheel requirement.) Teens who were 15½ or older when receiving an instruction permit may substitute the 4-hour Driver Awareness Program class for the behind the wheel training requirement.

With a minor driver’s license, a teen may drive unsupervised, but must follow certain restrictions. For the first 12 months, the teen may not drive between midnight and 5 a.m., unless accompanied by a parent or guardian; driving to/from work, school, or a school activity (a signed statement from the employer and/or school is required); or in case of a medical emergency. Passengers are restricted as follows: For the first 6 months, no passengers under age 21 are allowed. For the second 6 months, no more than one passenger under age 21 is allowed.   Exemptions exist for medical emergencies, siblings, and if a parent or guardian is supervising the driver. Drivers under age 18 are banned from using a cell phone (handheld or hands-free) or any other wireless communications device while driving. All vehicle occupants must wear seat belts.

Full Licensure

At age 18, passenger and night restrictions expire for teens with minor driver’s licenses. The licenses remain valid until 20 days after the holder’s 21st birthday. Between the 21st birthday and the expiration of the license, the holder renews the license and receives an adult license.

Consider using a parent-teen driving agreement to help enforce licensing rules that the state and your family set. An agreement helps you and your teen understand the rules of the road and sends a clear message that driving is an earned privilege that your family takes seriously.

The Colorado Department of Transportation, through its Driver Services Program, is in charge of licensing for all drivers the state. The department:

  • Conducts the written exam for your instruction permit and the drive test for your minor’s driver license. Drive tests at Driver’s License offices are by appointment only. Drive tests can also be completed with a third-part tester.
  • Provides study materials to help you get ready for the exams.
  • Keeps track of your license status and can suspend your license if you get too many tickets, don’t keep insurance on your car or commit other violations.

The Colorado Department of Transportation provides a useful set of resources and information for teen drivers and their families.

  • Your teen should expect to present a valid license, vehicle registration and proof of insurance.
  • Explain to your teen that it is important to always cooperate and be respectful when speaking with law enforcement.
  • Make sure your teen understands the importance of talking to you about any encounters with law enforcement, because it can create a learning experience.

If your teen breaks a law, gets a ticket or is involved in a crash, it could lead to a court appearance and the following consequences.

  • Fines
  • Suspended driving privileges
  • Points
  • Attorney’s fees
  • Court costs
  • Insurance premium increases