Most of us are familiar with public awareness campaigns warning about the dangers of cellphones and texting when behind the wheel. To prevent texting and driving and the serious automobile accidents that can occur as a result, Colorado laws prohibit drivers from engaging in this type of dangerous conduct. Unfortunately, it can be hard to resist looking when you get a notification of an incoming message or sending off a quick text to inform others when you are running late, even when you know the risks.
Colorado lawmakers recently enacted tougher legislation, increasing the penalties for texting and driving in Denver and other areas throughout the state. While the intent of the laws continues to be discouraging distracted driving and keeping motorists safe, critics of the new law claim that the wording provides a loophole and may actually encourage texting behind the wheel.
Laws Prohibiting Texting and Driving in Colorado
The law, which began as Senate Bill 17-027, increases the penalties for texting and driving in Denver and other areas within the state from $50 to $300, and increased the points placed on a driver’s license due to each citation from one to four, according to the Denver Post.
Tougher penalties are intended to reduce the number of preventable distracted driving accidents. In 2016, Colorado distracted drivers were involved in crashes resulting in 67 deaths, according to the Colorado Department of Transportation.
The tougher penalties in the new law will hit distracted drivers in the wallet and make it more likely that drivers who routinely engage in texting and driving will eventually face license suspension.
The Colorado Department of Transportation (CODOT) reports that suspension of driving privileges is based both on your age and the number of points received through citations:
- For adults aged 21 and over: Your license can be suspended if you accumulate 12 or more points over a 12-month period, or 18 or more points during the previous two years.
- For drivers between the ages of 18 and 21: The CODOT states that drivers in this age group are involved in a disproportionately high percentage of texting and driving accidents in Colorado. Drivers in this age group may have their driving privileges suspended if they accumulate nine or more points in a year, 12 or more points over a two-year period, or 14 or more points at any time prior to reaching the age of 21.
- For drivers under the age of 18: This is the age group the CODOT claims is the most likely to be involved in potentially fatal car accidents. These drivers face the suspension of their license if they get six points over the period of a year, or seven or more before turning 18.
With the increased fines and point system, the new law may seem more fitting and in keeping with the potential dangers that texting and driving in Denver and other areas throughout Colorado poses.
The Denver Post report advises, though, that the new law contains a loophole. It includes language that states a driver may only be cited if he or she is texting and driving while operating the vehicle in a careless or reckless manner. This implies that texting and driving in general is not against the law, but only if it actually impacts your driving abilities.
Accidents Due to Texting and Driving
The problem with this change in the new wording of the state law is that texting and driving in Colorado or anywhere is always considered dangerous, regardless of when, where, or how you do it. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), texting and driving, as a form of distracted driving, claims close to 3,500 lives each year on U.S. roads, while resulting in more than 3,400 injuries. The CDC identifies three common types of driving distractions, with each being associated with certain types of activities:
- Manual distractions, such as reaching under your seat, changing radio stations or typing a text message, which cause you to take your hands off the wheel.
- Visual distractions, such as looking at maps, navigation systems or cell phones, causing you to take your eyes off the road.
- Cognitive distractions, such as focusing on a conversation, composing a text message or mentally preparing a shopping list, which take your mind off the task of driving at hand.
Texting involves all three types of driving distractions, making it particularly dangerous. The CODOT reports that distracted drivers cause as many as 40 accidents each day within our state. Denver’s Vision Zero traffic safety program claims that close to 15 percent of all traffic injuries and fatalities involving motor vehicles, bikes, and pedestrians are the result of texting and other types of distracted driving behaviors.
Holding Motorists Accountable for Texting and Driving in Denver
In addition to facing penalties for texting and driving in Colorado, including suspension of their driving privileges, unsafe drivers who engage in texting behind the wheel can be held legally liable when they cause car accidents and injuries.
If you are injured in a crash caused by a distracted driver, it is important to take the following steps:
- Report the accident to law enforcement.
- Get the names and contact information of other drivers involved, as well as their driver’s license, vehicle registration, and insurance policy numbers.
- Get contact information for any witnesses at the scene.
- Get medical care for any injuries you suffer, even if you suspect they are minor, and follow all of your doctor’s instructions.
Once you have done the above and notified your car insurance company, contact The Sawaya Law Firm right away.
Our experienced Colorado car accident attorneys can act as legal advocates on your behalf in these situations to help ensure you get the maximum amount you are entitled to in a claim. We can advise you on your rights to compensation, through an insurance company settlement or by filing a personal injury lawsuit against the at fault driver. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us today for professional assistance.