Cellphones and other electronic devices are a big part of a problem that is injuring tens of thousands of Americans and killing thousands on the nation’s roads.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says there was a 7.2 percent increase in traffic deaths in 2015, a rise that corresponds with an increase in the use of devices that can create deadly distractions. Those crashes killed 35,092 people, producing the biggest single-year spike in fatalities since 1966. NHTSA blames 10 percent of those fatalities on distracted driving.
In Colorado alone, distracted driving injured 15,574 people and killed 68 in 2015. The state has had hair-raising examples of distracted driving, some of them caught on camera:
- KMGH-TV in Denver aired a 45-second cellphone video of a woman driving on Interstate 25 in Denver with her left foot on the dashboard and a cellphone in her hand. The story did not say whether the person who took the video was driving as well.
- KDVR-TV in Denver showed images of a banged-up Colorado State Patrol cruiser and shared this tweet from the department: “The CSP loses another patrol car to distracted driving.” The patrol said a trooper had stopped to help a motorist in Castle Rock. The cruiser was on the shoulder with emergency lights flashing when it was struck. The driver was cited with reckless driving, a four-point offense.
There’s a Price to Pay for Distraction
The bad news is that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says driving while texting is six times more dangerous than drunken driving. The good news is that texting, tweeting, or emailing while driving is against the law in Colorado for those 18 or older, and people younger than 18 are not allowed to use a cellphone at all while driving.
Some Colorado cities have their own distracted-driving laws. Greeley passed a texting ban in 2016, along with a law making distracted driving a primary offense, meaning you can be stopped and ticketed if seen violating the law. Officers are allowed to use their own judgment to determine what constitutes distracted driving.
Greeley, which is in Weld County, isn’t alone in the fight against distracted driving:
- The Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office put a plainclothes deputy at an intersection in Centennial. He was holding a sign that said “I am not homeless … I don’t need money. … ACSO Deputy looking for distracted + texting drivers.” He bird-dogged distracted drivers and dispatched deputies to catch them and issue tickets. The sting yielded about 100 careless driving tickets over 10 hours.
- The Colorado State Patrol uses a variety of vehicles as spotters in operations targeting people who text while driving. One effective method was doing a ride-along in a tractor trailer in the Colorado Springs area. The trooper had a bird’s-eye view of drivers and radioed ahead to patrol cars waiting to be dispatched.
The patrol and sheriff’s office view the stings as an effective way to educate drivers.
Colorado Is Getting Distracted Drivers’ Attention
The Internet is among weapons the Colorado Department of Transportation is using in the war on distracted driving. One website explains the problem and posts data points such as these that should get people’s attention:
- Distracted driving is a problem across all age groups. Data show that 37 percent of distracted-driving crashes in Colorado from 2012 through 2014 involved people between the ages of 21 and 34.
- Data also show that cellphones were a factor in 17 fatal crashes in Colorado in 2015.
CDOT also has a webpage where people can download informative ads to print and videos. The page also has links that direct users to information on “Colorado Teen Driving” and “Teen Driving Restrictions.”
Legal Consequences of Driving Distracted
The CDOT educational campaign focuses on the dramatic effects of not paying attention to driving. A lot of the focus is on flesh and bone and heartache, but the examples of stings by the Colorado State Patrol and other law enforcement agencies drive home the effects it can have on your license. Damaging your driving record shows up on you bank statement, too, in the form of fines and higher insurance rates.
Aside from making the laws that govern the highways, the Colorado General Assembly had staff members put together useful information for drivers. The Colorado Legislative Council Staff posted crash statistics and an overview of related federal and state regulations online, including laws passed by other states.
If You Are a Crash Victim, The Sawaya Law Firm Can Help
The Sawaya Law Firm has gotten a firsthand look at the physical and emotional pain this widespread problem can cause, and our firm also works hard to educate the public. We offer information on distracted driving laws and tips on filing a claim for compensation after a distracted driving crash.
We also help victims in cases where the other driver was not cited for distracted driving or texting while driving. In many of those cases, you still have a right to file a claim if you believe that the other driver was at fault. In Colorado, you have three options for pursuing compensation:
- Filing a claim with your own insurance policy (depending upon the type of policy you hold)
- Filing a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance policy
- Pursuing a lawsuit against the at-fault driver
The Sawaya Law Firm’s commitment to the people of Colorado is evident in its push to reduce distracted driving, including the recent release of an educational video. That commitment has been on display for four decades as the firm has accrued invaluable experience on how to help crash victims.
Contact us today for a free consultation on how the firm can help you fight for the financial compensation you need and the justice you deserve.