A number of you Colorado Rider News readers are all-season riders but not everyone rides in through the winter season. For those that put the bike away for several of the winter months, the warming weather really creates an itch to hit the road.[Read more…] about Prepping for the Riding Season
What the bill does…
- The bill limits the use of a mobile electronic device while driving to adult drivers who use the mobile electronic device through a hands-free accessory (except smart watches)
- Establishes the following penalties for the respective offenses: $50 and two points for the first violation, $100 and two points for the second violation, $200 and four points for third or subsequent violations, and $300 and four points if the violation involves texting.
What the bill does NOT do…
- Does not prohibit RTD drivers or other professionals from using two-way radio communication devices for their professional duties.
- Does not prohibit the use of original equipment screens and controls which can control a mobile device remotely, such as buttons on a steering wheel.
- Does not preempt the federal law that prohibits commercial drivers from using hand-held mobile telephones and texting while driving commercial vehicles.
Why have more restriction?
- The bill aims to prevent distracted driving related accidents and deaths.
- Nationally 3,116 people died in 2017 due to distracted driving affected crashes.1
- Children and young people between the ages of 15-19, accounted for 23% of distracted drivers who were using cell phones, despite this group only making up of 6% of total drivers.2
- Distracted driving in Colorado caused over 15,000 crashes in 2018.3
Benefits of the additional standard?
Good for public safety – This bill could help prevent the 53 deaths, and 6,269 injuries in Colorado annually as a result of distracted drivers.4 This bill could help deter the behavior of the 90% of the population which engages in distracted driving behavior in Colorado.5 All of these deaths and injuries are preventable, and this bill will help to deter behavior that leads to these types of losses.
Good for Colorado’s economy – Distracted driving leaves quit a toll on drivers in Colorado by causing 43 crashes per day.6 By deterring drivers from this dangerous behavior, Coloradans could save money from costly accidents and higher insurance premiums. The additional revenue generated from the financial penalties of distracted driving will also help fund law enforcement agencies, particularly in small rural areas, to continue to protect and serve Coloradans.7
1 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
2 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
3 Colorado Department of Transportation
4 Colorado Department of Transportation
5 Colorado Department of Transportation
6 Colorado Department of Transportation
7 Rocky Mountain PBS
In February of 2016, Brian and Jacquie Lehner were riding their Harley-Davidson on Highway 83 near Franktown when an oncoming driver crossed the double-yellow line and hit them head-on. Both of the Lehners were killed. The driver, Athina Munoz, was found by police to be texting while driving, and she was also high on multiple substances.
Susan Dane was friends with the Lehners, having met them through her Harley-Davidson Chapter in Parker.
“The summer after they died, I told our Chapter members, ‘Something good has to come out of this!’” says Susan. “I looked up the penalties for texting and driving in Colorado and discovered that it was only $50 and one point. We were all shocked and realized we had to get that changed.”
Dane understood that Colorado’s laws were not strict enough to make anyone change their habits, meaning more people could die due to texting and driving. But she didn’t know how to change laws. She had never been involved in any legislative efforts in her life.
Therefore, Susan and a few of the Lehners’ other friends requested a meeting with George Brauchler, the district attorney who had prosecuted Athina Munoz.
“He said we had two options to change the law,” says Susan. “Either we could create legislation and try to get it passed through the Colorado legislature, or we could try to get signatures on a petition and get it on the ballot. He told us legislation would probably easier.”
CORD was Born
Knowing this would take an organized, grassroots effort, Susan and several other motorcycle riders founded CORD: Coloradans Organized for Responsible Driving.
“My role was to go out and find bills that had been introduced or laws that had passed in other states,” says Susan. “I discovered that there was a bill moving forward in Colorado that year! Senator Lois Court had introduced the bill, so I gathered a bunch of bikers to show up and testify on behalf of the bill.”
Susan laughs a bit when she thinks of that day. “When Senator Court saw us all walk in the room – all these motorcycle riders – she was afraid we’d be against the legislation because bikers are typically against more restrictive laws, such as helmet laws. But then we all started telling our stories and she realized we were on her side.”
CORD and Senator Court worked together to cross party lines and get a bill passed that year. It was a victory but, according to Susan, still not enough.
“It was a small victory,” says Susan. “We got the fines increased but it was a very hard law to enforce. Basically, the only way to get pulled over and ticketed is if you’re texting while driving, and you’re driving carelessly, and a police officer sees you.”
(I also testified at that first public hearing and have been working with CORD and Senator Court to pass stricter texting-while-driving laws.)
Sadly, a stricter bill was quickly killed in 2018. But everyone involved agreed that they had to keep trying in 2019. Their first goal was to expand awareness and support of their efforts.
“We got insurance companies, AAA, C-DOT, the bicycle communities and so many others involved,” says Susan. “So many people want safer roads!”
The 2019 bill made it through the Colorado Senate but was killed in the first House committee it faced.
“The opposition seems to come from a perceived profiling concern, and because not everybody can afford a Bluetooth-enabled car,” says Susan, who explains that she has hard data refuting the profiling concern, and that there are many ways to go hands-free in any car.
“We aren’t going away!” she proclaims, insisting that CORD and many others will be back for the next legislative session to get an impactful, habit-changing law passed.
“In my perfect world, I would like to see a fine of $500 and 4 points for the first offense, escalating from there for each additional offense,” she says. “This is just as bad as drunk driving! As a comparison, we have a $1,000 fine for littering!”
Want Safer Roads? Get Involved!
Susan would love to hear from anyone interested in supporting CORD’s efforts, and she understands how intimidating it can be to join the legislative process.
“It’s an eye opener,” she says. “I’ve never done anything like this before. Social studies was not my cup of tea in school so I’m making up for it now. Honestly, it’s very interesting and I have seen how average people can make a difference.”
If you’d like to follow CORD’s work, visit them on Facebook. You can also email Susan directly: firstname.lastname@example.org
By: Stump, Legislative Affairs Officer – ABATE of Colorado
The 2nd Session of the 71st Colorado General Assembly ended on Wednesday, May 9th. There weren’t any bills of direct concern to motorcyclists this session, but I hope I made some progress for next year. I couldn’t get any sponsors for our concerns: Anti-Profiling; Red-Light Bill; Lane- Splitting; or Autocycles. The Legislators I talked to support our issues but wouldn’t sponsor any bills. I think I’ll have better luck next year because of the connections I made this year and insights I gained on some Legislators. [Read more…] about Colorado Legislation
By: Susan Dane
Coloradans Organized for Responsible Driving (CORD) was formed when our friends, Brian and Jacquie Lehner, were killed on their motorcycle in February 2016 in a head-on collision by a woman who was reading a text message when her car drifted across the double yellow lines and hit Brian and Jacquie. [Read more…] about Coloradans Organized for Responsible Driving