Back to (Driving) School: More Crashes and Convictions for Teens that Skip Driver Ed

AAA Foundation research reveals opportunities to produce smarter, safer drivers

Denver, September 9 – Although vehicle crashes remain the leading cause of death for teens, fewer new drivers are participating in what used to be considered a rite of passage – driver education. State funding and requirements for these programs have declined over recent decades, leaving uneducated teen drivers vulnerable on America’s roads. New research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reveals that teens that skip this important step are involved in more crashes and receive more traffic convictions compared to their peers that participated in driver education.

“This research confirms what conventional wisdom tells us – driver education makes a difference,” said Dr. William Van Tassel, AAA manager of Driver Training Programs. “Despite recent declines in participation, the overwhelming majority of Americans believe new drivers should take part in this critical step of the learning-to-drive process.”

This study assessed examples of U.S. and Canadian driver education programs using a variety of evaluation methods including surveys, driver’s licensing tests, driver simulators and the review of driving records. The results revealed that several key differences exist between teens who receive driver education and those who do not, including:

  • Driver education is associated with a lower incidence of both crashes and convictions – reducing crashes by 4.3 percent and convictions by nearly 40 percent.
  • Teens that completed driver education not only scored higher on the driving exam, they also demonstrated modest increases in knowledge over their peers who did not take any formal training.

“Overall, the findings suggest that driver education can make a difference, but there is still much room for improvement in most existing programs,” noted Peter Kissinger, President and CEO of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

In Colorado, the training required before a teen can apply for a license depends on how old the teen is when starting the process. Colorado requires teens to have a driving permit for 12 full months before applying for a license.

From age 15 up to 15 and 6 months a teen must:

  • Complete 30-hour driver’s education course
  • 6 hours behind-the-wheel training is mandatory if under age 16 and 6 months at time of applying for a license

  • From age 15 and 6 months up to 16 a teen must:

    • Complete 4-hour classroom driver awareness program
    • 6 hours behind-the-wheel training is optional if age 16 and 6 months or older at time of applying for a license
    • Between age 16 – 17:
      Driver’s education and behind-the-wheel training strongly recommended but not required.

      AAA Colorado and the AAA Foundation are committed to helping teens stay safe on the roads and have developed comprehensive resources including, a state-specific website to help parents navigate the learning-to-drive process.

      Established by AAA in 1947, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety is a 501(c) (3) not-for-profit, publicly-supported charitable educational and research organization. Dedicated to saving lives and reducing injuries on our roads, the Foundation’s mission is to prevent crashes and save lives through research and education about traffic safety. The Foundation has funded over 200 research projects designed to discover the causes of traffic crashes, prevent them, and minimize injuries when they do occur. Visit for more information on this and other research.

      AAA Colorado provides more than 600,000 members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services and is a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers.