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Implementing the new laws

Each year on July 1, new laws become effective which were passed in the previous legislative session. One of the most recent new laws specifically target Colorado’s young and/or inexperienced drivers. This new law prohibits young or beginning drivers from using cell phones or other “mobile communication devices” while driving.Any driver age 16 or older who has a temporary instruction permit cannot use cell phones or mobile communication devices while driving. This also includes any driver under the age 16 who is enrolled in an approved driver’s education course and has a minor’s instruction permit.Most everyone knows a cell phone, but a “mobile communication device” is defined as “a device that enables the person in a motor vehicle to transmit and receive audio signals to and from a person or audio recording device located outside the motor vehicle.” In both of the permit situations, a valid licensed driver, over age 21, is required to occupy the front seat in close proximity to the minor driver. The ultimate responsibility not to use a cell phone or communication devices is on the driver, however, the instructor is present to disallow such use.There are exceptions to this new law, which include permitted use of a cell phone to contact a public safety entity, to use while the car is legally parked or during an emergency situation. The new law is intended to keep the young and inexperienced driver focused on safe driving and to concentrate on the safe operation of the car. Teens and inexperienced drivers, in order to become safe and responsible drivers, need proper behind-the-wheel driving experience before they can begin to drive without restrictions.Coupled with the new cell phone restrictions, Colorado also has in place existing laws regarding curfews for minor drivers and restrictions on the number of passengers allowed in the vehicle. The law defines a minor driver as less than 18 years old. Colorado law states that minor drivers cannot drive a motor vehicle between midnight and 5 a.m., unless accompanied by a parent, guardian or other responsible adult over 21. There is an exception to this “driving curfew”. The minor driver, under 18, may drive between midnight and 5 a.m. for employment purposes when necessary. If this employment exemption is utilized, the minor must have a written statement signed by the employer verifying employment. In the case of a medical or other type emergency, the minor can also drive after curfew. If cited for a violation such as this, it will be determined by law enforcement, and possibly the courts, if the situation was in fact a true emergency.Another curfew exception is the minor driving to school or a school-authorized function when the school does not provide adequate transportation, so long as the driver possesses a signed statement from a school official containing the date the activity will occur.Last, regarding passengers in a vehicle driven by a minor driver: During the first six months of driving, the only passengers allowed in the vehicle are persons 21 or older or an immediate family member. Starting in the seventh month until one year of driving, one passenger is allowed other than persons 21 or older or an immediate family member.Our children believe these laws were passed to cause them difficulty, but as parents, we appreciate the laws that are intended to try to keep our young drivers safe. The Colorado State Patrol actively enforces these statutes, not as punishment but as a reminder to pay attention when you’re driving a motor vehicle.

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