Every day, more and more Americans rely on mobile devices as technology continues to advance at a rapid speed. Email, GPS, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and a myriad of Apps keep people tied to their phones 24/7—even when driving.
As a result, distracted driving auto accidents have become as prevalent as those caused by drunk driving. State lawmakers across the country have attempted to mitigate distracted driving collisions by passing laws prohibiting certain cell phone use behind the wheel.
Colorado, for instance, is among the 46 states that have passed aggressive texting while driving laws. Lawmakers have banned texting behind the wheel for all drivers as a primary offense, meaning drivers do not need to be cited for speeding or any other traffic violation before being ticketed for illegally texting while driving.
In recent months, state representatives have attempted to go even further to combat these types of car accidents.
With support from both the state House and Senate, lawmakers are likely to pass a bill that would drastically upped the fines for “careless texting” behind the wheel.
The new law
The bill, first introduced in the state House, aimed to increase the fine for those driving in a "careless or imprudent manner" from the current $50 to a whopping $500—even for first time offenders.
The law garnered support in the House, particularly amid hearing various stories from family members who testified at the Capital about the loss of loved ones in auto accidents because of another driver’s careless decision to pay more attention to a text than others on the road.
In one instance, friends discussed their heartbreaking story about losing two close friends in a distracted driving accident. The couple was riding a motorcycle and died instantly after an oncoming driver veered into their lane, crashing into them while texting on her phone.
These and many other stories about the need to take action to combat this ongoing problem seemed to resonate among both parties.
After clearing the state House, the bill headed to the state Senate for review.
The final provisions of the bill
After various amendments, a final bill cleared a Colorado Senate panel last week. The official language includes a fine of $300 for first-time offenders along with a 5 point penalty for drivers found violating the law.
Provisions were included in the bill for certain exceptions. Drivers would not be subject to the fine if they texted while sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic or while waiting at a red light.
Although the law received support from both chambers, it still needs to garner passage from the Finance Committee (where it’s expected to pass without too much contention).
According to data from the Colorado Department of Transportation, 1 in every 10 auto accidents that resulted in a fatality in 2015 involved a distracted driver. That number has continued to rise every year. It remains to be seen whether this new state law will be a deterrent to drivers who find it too irresistible to even momentarily disconnect.