In the last ten years or so, awareness of the dangers of texting and driving has gone up substantially. But at the same time, distracted driving has become far more common — cell phones are ubiquitous, and high-speed data networks make the temptation of catching up on Twitter while driving hard to resist.
The Dangers of Texting and Driving
Texting and driving — or, more broadly speaking, distracted driving — is a serious issue. Cars are smooth, quiet, and comfortable, making it easy for drivers to forget that they’re controlling a multi-ton block of metal at speeds that cover the length of a football field every couple of seconds.
According to a report from the NHTSA in 2017, distracted driving kills over 3,000 people every year and injures thousands more — and not always the person who’s driving. Just like drinking while driving, distracted driving is a reckless practice that puts your life and the lives of others at serious risk.
While it’s almost a cliche to blame teenagers and young people for the phenomenon of increased cell phone use on the roads, they’re not the only ones to blame. According to the same NHTSA report, almost two thirds of distracted drivers are over the age of 30.
Colorado Law on Distracted Driving
In Colorado, the laws against cell phone use while driving are different for minors and adults, so it’s important to know the difference when it comes to what you or your children are legally allowed to do.
For adult drivers (aged 18 years and up), regular cell phone use to make phone calls is permitted. Calls may be made with a handheld phone, through the car’s built-in Bluetooth, or through headphones, as long as the headphones are only worn in one ear.
However, “manual data entry and transmission” — sending a text message or browsing the internet, for example — are prohibited while driving.
For minors, the laws are much more strict. Any driver in Colorado under the age of 18 is prohibited from using a cell phone while driving. This includes making phone calls, texting, or any form of manual data entry and transmission.
Exceptions to the Law
There are exceptions to the law for both adults and minors. Both adult and minor drivers are allowed to use a wireless device for phone calls and text messages in the event of an emergency or if they need to contact a public safety entity like the police or fire department.
By Colorado law, an emergency is defined as any of the following situations:
- A driver fears for their life or safety, or that person thinks that a criminal act is about to be committed
- A driver witnesses a fire, serious traffic accident, serious road hazard, or a medical or hazardous materials emergency (like a dangerous spill in the road)
- A driver witnesses another driver who’s driving in a careless, reckless, or unsafe way
Penalties for Distracted Driving
In some states, distracted driving is a secondary offense, like failure to wear a seatbelt. What that means is that the police can only fine you for the offense if they had another reason to pull you over, like speeding.
In Colorado, that’s not the case. Distracted driving (just like failure to wear a seatbelt) is a primary offense. Current law states that a law enforcement officer has to see you using your device, and that you were operating the vehicle in a careless way, to issue you a citation.
If you are cited for distracted driving, the penalties are as follows:
Distracted Driving and Liability
Colorado is what’s called a “modified comparative negligence” state. This means that in a personal injury case resulting from a car accident, the fault of both parties will be assessed when awarding damages. If the defendant is found to be primarily responsible, but the plaintiff’s negligence also contributed to the crash, the plaintiff’s damages will be reduced in accordance with the plaintiff’s negligence.
In this case, a speeding or drunk driver might run into you while you’re driving along, staying in your lane and not speeding at all. Sound like a pretty cut-and-dry case — it’s their fault, right? But if you were distracted at the time, even if your distraction wasn’t the main cause of the crash, you might be held partially responsible.
More importantly, texting and driving is simply a bad idea. The next time you drive, put your phone on silent or “do not disturb” mode — you might be surprised at how unimportant the notifications that come through in the meantime are. Listen to podcasts to keep yourself from getting distracted in stop-and-go traffic. If you’re in the middle of a text conversation, tell the other person that you’re hopping in the car and you’ll be with them again soon.
Contact Mintz Law Firm in the Event of an Injury
We’re personal injury experts, but we’d rather you simply stay safe and not get injured at all. That said, we know that car wrecks happen. If you’re injured in a car crash and you believe that the other driver’s distracted driving is to blame, contact us for a free consultation. We have the expertise, compassion, and understanding to make sure that your case is handled properly.