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Important Driving Information that Goes Beyond the Book - Interview with Sgt Matt Cabot

I was given the opportunity and privilege to sit down with Sgt Matt Cabot to discuss some driver safety information that is not necessarily in the drivers handbook. Sgt Cabot works for the Thornton Police Department, with over 23 years of police experience, and helped start the Top Cops Driving School. Top Cops Driving School opened in 2012 to give teens a new opportunity when it comes to learning to drive. With the hard work of Top Cops the students learn; not only the basics of driving but also, more specific education based on years of knowledge from qualified police officers that have worked traffic. This provides a bigger view of the overall picture when it comes to driving and driving safety.

Q- How do you get your driving permit? What are the rules for once you get your permit? What are the rules the first year of driving with a new license?

A- To obtain a permit teens must complete 30 hours of Drivers Education Class (or 4 hours of Driver Awareness Class if child is 15.5 years old or older), study for the written test and pass the written test.

Once your child gets their permit they must have it for 12 months and be at least 16 years old before applying for their license. They must have their completed and signed drive hours log and 6 hours of drive time behind the wheel with a driving instructor.

Once you have your license: driving between midnight and 5am are NOT permitted the first year you have your license (for exemptions to this rule see link below for Minor License)

The first 6 months no passengers under 21 years old are permitted. After the first 6 months to the first year one passenger under 21 may ride with you. After you have had your license for one year, or you turn 18, you may have more then one passenger under 21 years old ride with you. Siblings are allowed to ride with you at any time. You must wear seat belts at all times and text or talking on a cell phone while driving is always illegal under 18 years old. (for more complete information and list of rules for drivers under 18 years old see link below for Minor License)

Q- Where can teens go for drivers education and to take their test?

A- You can go to the DMV (Division of Motor Vehicles), or check into driving schools such as Top Cops, Master Drive and Drive Safe; just to name a few. (see the links below for more information)

Q- What are the top causes for accidents involving teens?

A- The top two causes of accidents involving teen drivers are distracted driving and driver inexperience. Distracted driving includes; but not limited to, being distracted by cell phones, friends, music and fatigue.

Q- Roughly how many accidents a year are caused by distracted drivers?

A-  According to the CDC Website - "Each day in the United States, approximately 9 people are killed and more than 1,000 injured in crashes that are reported to involve a distracted driver."


Q- About how many fatal crashes a year involve teen drivers? How many teens are injured from accidents a year?

A- According to the CDC Website - "Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens. Six teens ages 16 to 19 die every day from motor vehicle injuries. Per mile driven, teen drivers ages 16 to 19 are nearly three times more likely than drivers aged 20 and older to be in a fatal crash."  https://www.cdc.gov/motorvehiclesafety/teen_drivers/index.html

"In 2016, 2,433 teens in the United States ages 16–19 were killed and 292,742 were treated in emergency departments for injuries suffered in motor vehicle crashes."  https://www.cdc.gov/motorvehiclesafety/teen_drivers/teendrivers_factsheet.html

Q- What do you do if involved in an accident?

A- 1) Always call the Police to be sure you are covering yourself and those involved. If the other person says not to call the Police it generally is because they do not have valid insurance, they have no license or possibly have warrants. By calling the Police you make sure to protect yourself and any future events due to the accident. 2) Move your vehicle out of the way of traffic to help you stay safe. However, if you are injured then stay in your car and do not attempt to move it. 3) Exchange information with the people involved in the accident. Take a picture of their drivers license, insurance card and registration. If you decide to just exchange information, and not call the Police from the beginning, remember that if something seems off then call the Police.

Q-  Can an undercover car pull you over? How can you verify it is an actual police officer as opposed to an impersonator?

A- Yes an unmarked police car can pull you over. There are certain things you can look for to be sure it is an actual real police officer. First off the lights should be a full light bar within the vehicle. They will not have just one or two red/blue lights. You should be able to clearly see the lights flashing just as you would with a marked car. They also have sirens. Secondly, when the officer exists their vehicle to approach you you should be able to see a complete police uniform. You will not be pulled over by a detective in a suite and tie or by an officer in jeans and a t-shirt that just says police on it. The officer should have a full uniform on that includes things such as a badge, gold name tag, radio and tool belt. If for any reason you do not feel comfortable or suspect it may not be a real officer, you should pull over in a safe, lit area, stop your car, keep the doors locked but crack your window. Make sure your hands are visible and once the officer comes to your window and sees your hands you can let them know you are calling to verify the stop. Call 911 and have your phone on speaker. The dispatch will be able to verify the stop is legit and you can proceed as with any other normal traffic stop.

Q- If a driver is stopped what steps and precautions should they take? How can they be sure to stop in a safe place and not get in trouble?

A- Do not stop in a dark or unsafe place. Instead slow down, put on your flashers to indicate that you are stopping and proceed to the first safe spot to stop. Always go to the right to pull over. If you need to proceed to a safe spot to pull over; and worry about getting in trouble, you can call 911 and let them know that you are being pulled over and are going to a safe spot to stop, and let them know where you will be going for example the next exit or the next gas station. They will be able to relay this information to the officer.

Once you have pulled over, you should put your vehicle in park or turn it off. Always be sure to have your hands visible to the officer. Listen to the officer's instructions and follow directions.

Q- Who should you call if you observe a drunk/aggressive driver and what information will you need to provide?

A- Call *277 from your cell phone. Let them know your location and a brief description of the vehicle. This number is good for the whole state of Colorado and the person answering can transfer you to the correct location if needed.

Q- Is there a law against texting and driving and what is the punishment?

A- You CAN NOT be manipulating your phone while driving. It is okay to use hands free, to look at your map and to talk on the phone but you CAN NOT be pressing buttons, scrolling through things or manipulating your phone in anyway. If caught you can get a ticket for $145 fine and 4 points on your license. Remember that talking on or texting on your cell phone is always illegal if you are under 18 years old.

Q- What are the top three things new drivers should know to help them stay safe?

A- 1) ALWAYS wear your seat belt. Your seat belt is the top important tool you have to help you stay safe. Wearing your seat belt can make the difference between life and death if in an accident.  2) FOCUS on the task of driving at all times while behind the wheel. Limit distractions and make focusing on the task at hand of driving your priority. 3) SPEED KILLS! Always obey the speed limit and drive at or a little below the speed limit especially the first year of driving. Drive in the right side lane; also known as the slow lane on the freeway.

Q- What other things would you like new drivers and parents to know?

A- Be aware of the four distractions: Cognitive, Audible, Biomechanical and Visual

Cognitive distractions include daydreaming while driving. Try to focus on the task at hand and not let your mind wonder elsewhere.

Audible distractions include loud music, children crying or loud passengers. Try to have passengers talk quietly and avoid having the music too loud. It is best to try to keep the noise level to a low enough level to be able to hear sirens from emergency vehicles coming your way.

Biomechanical distractions include moving to adjust your seat, eating while driving and reaching for things in the passenger or back seat. Try to be prepared before you start driving so you can limit the amount of reaching for things you will need while driving.

Visual distractions include looking at other things on the road, reading signs, looking at accidents on the side of the road and looking at your phone. Always try to remain focused on driving and the road.

Information Links:

Top Cops Driving School

Top Cops instructors hail from many different Law Enforcement agencies in the Denver metro area. It is the diversity of backgrounds in these instructors that makes young drivers from all walks of life comfortable behind the wheel with us. We prepare students at a cognitive and emotional level to accept and understand the responsibility associated with driving by developing their SIPDE (Scan, Identify, Predict, Decide, Execute) skill set. This exceptional training can only be offered exclusively by trained and decorated police officers which can only be found on our staff at Top Cops!


Colorado Division of Motor Vehicle  

Minor License Information -


I'm a Minor Driver (under 21 years old) -


State Driver License Appointment Scheduler -


Drive Safe Driving School

As the largest and most trusted driving school in Colorado, DriveSafe is committed to delivering the most comprehensive drivers education. With the DriveSafe for Life System™, we focus on building confidence and teaching safe driving habits in a highly engaging manner. Whether you are looking to enroll in a comprehensive classroom course, coming in for driving lessons, or opting to take the license test with DriveSafe, know that DriveSafe is trusted by more families in Colorado than any other driving school.


Master Drive Driving School

MasterDrive has earned the distinction as the premier Fort Collins driver's school because of our cutting-edge and comprehensive techniques and education. We've been the leader in driver's education in the Front Range area for over 30 years. We set the bar high for driver education and learning experiences for car control to create a more effective approach to driver education and safety.


Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Motor Vehicle Safety Information -               https://www.cdc.gov/motorvehiclesafety/

Teen Driver Information - https://www.cdc.gov/motorvehiclesafety/teen_drivers/index.html

Important Driving Information that Goes Beyond the Book - Interview with Sgt Matt Cabot
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