By: Susan Dane, Coloradans Organized for Responsible Driving (CORD)
Senate Bill 19-012 (SB19-012), Use of Electronic Mobile Devices While Driving, passed the Senate & Energy Committee on February 14 with a unanimous “Yes” vote.
One of the Committee members mentioned that all of the testimony he heard at the Committee meeting was a deciding factor for him to vote yes for the Bill. And I believe all of the emails and phone calls the Committee members received, asking for their support of this Bill, had an impact on how they voted. I think this proves there is power in everyone’s individual voice. We hope you will continue to help us get this Bill passed into Law. We have several more Committees to get through.
Some facts about the Bill:
- The Bill DOES NOT make it illegal to use electronic mobile devices in your car. Devices may be used as long as hands-free technology is involved in using them.
- The penalty for texting while driving remains the same: $300/4 points. A Law Enforcement Officer must see you texting in order to issue the citation. In the current statute, you must also be driving carelessly. In the new Bill, the “driving carelessly” clause was removed. (If you are texting while driving, you are driving carelessly.) This will be classified as a Class 2 Misdemeanor traffic offense.
- The penalty for having an electronic mobile device in your hand while operating a motor vehicle (unless at rest in a shoulder lane or lawfully parked), upon conviction, may be up to $50/1 point for a first office, and shall be $150/4 points for a second offense and $300/4 points for a third offense. This will be classified as a Class A traffic infraction.
- This Bill does NOT authorize the seizure and forfeiture of a mobile electronic device, unless otherwise provided by law.
The Bill is scheduled to go before the Senate Appropriations Committee in March. Please follow the Coloradans Organized for Responsible Driving (CORD) Facebook page for ways you can help keep this Bill alive. We will post the Committee contact information, so everyone can call/email the Committee members to request their support of this Bill.
With 40 accidents a day caused by distracted driving in Colorado, as of March 15, that’s approximately 11,640 more accidents that may occur by the end of 2019. And actually, these are not accidents. They are preventable tragedies that are caused by choices people make. It’s a choice to use mobile devices while in your vehicle. Driving is not, and should not be, a multi-tasking activity. It takes visual, physical and cognitive concentration to safely operate a motor vehicle. Holding an electronic mobile device and texting on it impacts all three of these and is a very serious distraction.
Most smartphones have a feature that will automatically generate a text message back to the sender, letting them know you are driving and will respond once you arrive at your destination.
Some pushback we received was the financial hardship these fines could cause. Well, if you don’t want to pay the fine, don’t do the crime. Again, it’s all about choices. It’s free to not use your mobile devices while driving. To put things into perspective, it’s a $1,000 fine for littering. You tell me… what’s a life worth?
History of SB19-012: Our fight for safer roads in Colorado
By: Scott O’Sullivan, Rider Justice – The Advocacy Arm of The O’Sullivan Law Firm
For several years now, I have been working with Susan Dane of CORD and with Colorado Senator Lois Court to end distracted driving in Colorado. We’ve had some successes: it is now illegal to text while driving in Colorado and we were able to increase the fines last year to levels that should change behaviors. This year, we want to make it illegal to hold your phone while driving. We want people to have two hands on the wheel. And on February 14, we took one big step forward when the Colorado Senate Transportation and Motor Vehicle Committee passed a hands-free law on to the full Senate.
Here’s the History
Back in 2017, Susan Dane, Senator Court and I collaborated on a bill titled, “The Increase Penalty for Texting While Driving Act,” which increased the penalty for adults found guilty of distracted driving from $50 to $300. It passed, and we were thrilled. However, those of us involved were still unsatisfied with Colorado’s laws.
We would like to see Colorado join the 16 others that prohibit all drivers from using hand- held electronics while driving. Therefore, last year (2018), Susan and I worked again with Senator Court on a bill titled “The Use of Mobile Electronic Devices While Driving Act.” This bill would have made Colorado a hands-free state. In a nutshell, this bill would have made it illegal to use any mobile electronic device while driving, with an exception for adults who use hands-free technologies, such as Bluetooth.
What happened to that bill? As Michael Roberts reported in Westword…
There was plenty of support for this approach outside the General Assembly…
Nonetheless, the bill was scheduled to be heard by the State, Veterans, & Military Affairs committee, which is frequently referred to by General Assembly insiders as the “kill committee.” And in this case, the panel lived up to its nickname. The measure was defeated in a party-line vote.
But you can’t keep a good cause down! In late 2018 and early 2019, Senator Court worked on the bill again and, on January 24, 2019, I (along with many others) testified before the Transportation Committee in support of a new bill sponsored by Senator Lois Court. It would make it a primary offense to hold any hand-held device while your vehicle is moving. If a cop sees you holding your phone while driving, he or she could pull you over and give you a ticket. The idea, of course, is that people need to have both hands on the wheel and their eyes on the road.