Yesterday, I was interviewed by 9News for a story about a bill making its way through the Colorado Senate. (Senator Lois Court and I have been trying to get a version of this bill passed since 2017. See this story for a recap of our efforts.) This bill, should it become law, would make it illegal to use a hand-held device while driving in Colorado.
As Kyle Clark says in the video, “Current Colorado law says texting while driving is not a ‘primary offense’ for those over the age of 18. So basically, you can’t get pulled over for it, but if you cause a crash, it could become an issue.”
This idea of a “primary offense” is critical to the new law, which is titled, “Use of Electronic Mobile Devices While Driving” (SB19-012). As it stands now, a cop can actually see a person texting while driving, watching videos while driving, gaming while driving, working on a laptop while driving (they’ve seen it all) and the cop could not do anything about it. The only way a person can be charged with a “texting-while-driving” offense is after the accident actually happens. But cops have shown that it is very hard to prove someone was using a hand-held device after an accident occurs (unless the cop saw it him/herself).
“We all know from driving that everyone on the road is doing it. I think what it will take is people getting the word out, CDOT doing campaigns, the police enforcing it, so it sets a cultural tone within the state to be safe and not use your device while driving.”
~ Scott O’Sullivan
Proposed bill makes all use of hand-held devices a primary offense
As a Colorado personal injury attorney, I can also tell you that I represent victims who were clearly hit by a distracted driver, but it is extremely hard to prove the driver was on a device. (I have one client who was rear-ended by a woman on her phone and when the victim confronted her – she was still behind the wheel, texting – she said, “Hang on, let me finish this.” She had just rear-ended someone!) We need to make it illegal to use a hand-held device while driving: period.
Therefore, the proposed bill makes all use of hand-held devices a primary offense, meaning you can be pulled over if a cop merely sees you holding a hand-held device. (To see the many ways that you can use your smartphone hands-free while driving, see my article titled, “Hands-Free Devices for Colorado Drivers.”)
Here is what I said to 9News: “We all know from driving that everyone on the road is doing it. I think what it will take is people getting the word out, CDOT doing campaigns, the police enforcing it, so it sets a cultural tone within the state to be safe and not use your device while driving.”
Sixteen states already have hands-free laws in effect and I’m watching other states closely. (Virginia looks close.) It is time for Colorado to make its roads safer.
If you would like to add your voice to the cause, text me at 303-388-5304. I will be keeping a master list of people who would be willing to show up and speak to the Senate when the time comes.
Let’s make Colorado’s roads safer. (And by the way, let’s lead by example! Don’t wait for a law to mandate it: put your phone away when you’re behind the wheel.)