A bill that increases penalties for drivers convicted of distracted driving passed the full Legislature on April 24 and is expected to be signed into law by Gov. John Hickenlooper at the end of May.
Under the legislation, a law enforcement officer must see a driver using a phone for texting, or doing any other form of manual data entry, while operating a motor vehicle. A conviction for a first offense would be a Class 2 misdemeanor resulting in a fine of $300 and four points on the driver’s license. Subsequent offenses would incur the same fine and points assessed.
Drivers convicted of causing an accident resulting in death or injury while texting would face Class 1 misdemeanor charges, with fines ranging from $300 to $1,000 and a possible sentence of 10 days to one year in prison.
“It’s a start to make Colorado roads safer in the long run,” said Susan Dane, co-founder of Colorado Organized for Responsible Driving. “But our work is not done.”
Dane and other CORD members founded the group after friends Jacquie and Brian Lehner were killed in an accident on State Route 83 north of Franktown in 2016. The driver admitted to drinking and smoking marijuana before the accident, as well as checking a text message, just before she drifted into oncoming traffic and caused the accident.
CORD had representatives at every committee hearing throughout the course of the bill’s passage, Dane said. The next step for the group will be to work with schools and driver’s education programs to reach young drivers before texting becomes part of their driving routine.
“I don’t know what it’s going to take to get people to shake the habit,” Dane said. “But we’re going to keep working at it.”