Apr 5, 2022 - News

Colorado bill attempts to close texting while driving loophole

A car with a thought bubble
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A little-known fact in Colorado: It's actually legal to text and drive.

State of play: A 2017 law that increased fines for texting behind the wheel added a loophole that makes the act illegal only if done in "a careless or imprudent manner."

  • Most law enforcement officers will say all texting while driving is careless, but prosecutors reluctantly acknowledged the weaker standard when the law passed.

What's new: Colorado lawmakers will consider legislation Tuesday to eliminate the loophole by making it illegal in most instances to use a cellphone while driving.

  • The measure allows adults to use hands-free devices and exempts calls made related to public safety.

Of note: A similar bill failed in the prior legislative session because of concerns about people of color being targeted by law enforcement.

  • But bill sponsors added language this year requiring tracking of demographic data in the hopes of assuaging opponents.

What they're saying: "Our current standard is not adequate. That's why the bill is so badly needed," bill sponsor Sen. Chris Hansen (D-Denver) tells Axios.

By the numbers: Advocates for the bill, including AAA Colorado and a bicyclists group, point to statistics showing a record 672 people died on state roadways, the highest number since 2002.

  • An average of 42 crashes happen every day in Colorado due to distracted driving, advocates said.

The big picture: 24 states currently prohibit all drivers from using hand-held cellphones, according to the Denver-based National Conference of State Legislatures, a bipartisan organization.

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