Distracted driving has become a major public health problem. According to government statistics, in 2017, distracted driving killed over three thousand people. As Denver auto accident lawyers, we have extensive experience helping our clients to maximize their recovery if they have been injured as a result of a distracted driver.
Currently, 48 states, including Colorado, plus the District of Columbia, ban text messaging for all drivers. All but 3 states have primary enforcement, meaning that law enforcement officers will be able to pull over motorists for texting while driving. In Colorado, distracted driving violations are primary offenses. However, a law enforcement officer must see the use of the mobile device to transmit data, and that the driver was operating the motor vehicle in a careless or imprudent manner, in order to issue a citation.
Importantly, distracted driving is a broader category than texting while driving. It encompasses the act of driving while engaged in anything – texting, looking after children or pets, talking on the phone or to a passenger, watching videos, eating, or reading – that takes a driver’s focus away from the road. While lawmakers at the state, federal, and local level are examining a wide variety of issues related to driver focus, the main concern is the potential distraction caused by cell phones and other technology in the car.
Although adult drivers are permitted to use cell phones for voice calls in Colorado, any driver under 18 years of age is prohibited from using a cell phone while driving. The prohibition includes phone calls, text messaging, or similar forms of manual data entry and transmission.
Exceptions to the Law
Exceptions to Colorado’s distracted driving law are provided under specified circumstances. Drivers, regardless of age, may use a wireless device for phone calls or texting to contact a public safety entity or during an emergency. An emergency is defined as any situation in which the following may occur:
- The person has reason to fear for his or her life or safety or believes that a criminal act may be perpetrated against him or her or against another person
- The individual is reporting of a fire, serious traffic accident, serious road hazard, or a medical or hazardous materials emergency
- The driver is reporting a person who is driving in a reckless, careless, or unsafe manner
Penalties for violating Colorado’s distracted driving law include fines (ranging from $50 to $1000) and points off your license (1-4). If an adult driver who has already been cited for texting while driving is the cause of injury or death to another, they face up to one year in prison.
In addition to statutory fines, offenders have assessed a surcharge credited to the Victims and Witnesses Assistance and Law Enforcement Fund and the Crime Victim Compensation Fund.
Victims of Distracted Drivers
If you have been the victim of a texting and driving accident, an attorney can use illegal texting as evidence of negligence when arguing your case in court or negotiating with the insurance company. Breaking a traffic law is generally viewed as sufficient proof of negligence or carelessness, so you may only need to show that texting was the cause of harm in order to obtain compensation.