Time To Hang Up And Drive, Colorado?

CBS4’s Shaun Boyd reports on a perennial bill introduced in the Colorado legislature that, while it hasn’t passed in previous sessions, might see a different outcome this year in under unified Democratic control–legislation to expand on the state’s existing ban on texting while driving to requiring drivers to be fully hands-free if the call truly can’t wait:

A state lawmaker says it’s not enough to ban texting while driving, the current law in Colorado. Sen. Lois Court, a Democrat representing Denver, wants to ban drivers from using hand-held phones altogether.

“This is designed to stop dangerous behavior,” said Court…

Opponents, including the ACLU and Colorado Criminal Defense Bar, say the bill goes too far, equating holding a phone while driving with reckless driving.

“Bills like this become symbolism, they don’t give you results,” Denise Maes with the ACLU told lawmakers.

A vote on Sen. Lois Court’s bill was delayed following testimony yesterday to give proponents a chance to make changes suggested during the hearing. Banning holding a phone while driving isn’t a proposal that necessarily has clean partisan cleavage, and there are legitimate countervailing public safety and personal freedom arguments to consider. Much the same way they say “a conservative is a liberal who’s been mugged,” it’s possible that your view of this bill will depend on how close you’ve personally come to being in a space-time conflict with a driver distracted by their phone.

A poll follows–good idea, or trampling your sacred right to screen addiction?

Should Colorado ban the use of hand-held phones while driving?

21 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. Diogenesdemar says:

    Texting while driving is illegal??  Who knew?? Certainly not any Colorado driver, who’s not texting himself, and happens to look out his windows at any myriad number of other drivers.

    How many installed touch-screen vehicle devices are there, that are just as bad?

    This is a prohibition that the law isn’t fixing, and won’t fix.  

    We need better technology, and more education (and a modicum of self-control wouldn’t hurt either).

    Friggin’ Democrats!? . . .

    • Davie says:

      I've sat through left turn green arrows while the young doofus in front of me seems to be updating his facebook page.  Or you'll see a contractor in a pickup truck weaving along at 25 miles per hour in a 40 zone as he's yakking on the phone with his customer.

      So yeah, I'd like to see handheld phone use prohibited.

      But you also have a reasonable point on the in-vehicle interfaces.  I've used some that are pretty good, others that are invitations to disaster.  Voice command systems should help, but they too aren't panaceas.

      I can't wait for self-driving technology to mature so that distracted driving is a thing of the past.



  2. davebarnes says:

    Concentration on the call is the problem, not whether the phone is hand held or hands free.

    Having a phone conversation in the car should be illegal.

  3. itlduso says:

    Thank you!  This is exactly my hot button issue and I was in the process of posting about this very issue when I saw this post.  In fact, in today's USA Today there is an article titled, "Risky phone use soars, killing Americans".  The article was focused on dangers of drivers using their phones for something other than a call and cited 800 deaths in 2017 alone for this.  I believe that hand-held phones even for phone calls while driving is dangerous and deadly.  These are the states that ban all drivers from using hand-held cell phones: CA, CT, DE, GA, HI, IL, MD, NV, NH, NJ, NM, NY, OR, RI, VT, WA, WV, and Wash DC, Puerto Rico, Guam and the US Virgin Islands.

    I sent a letter to my new CO state representative, Tom Sullivan, two weeks ago about this and have not heard back.  I will contact him again today.  Distracted drivers are a greater threat to my and my family's personal safety than gun violence, frankly.

    • JohnInDenver says:

      I'm not certain how you determine "Distracted driers are a greater threat to my and my family's personal safety than gun violence."

      Comparisons of death rates are complicated, as it is difficult to determine statistics of "by-stander" death or injury to compare to the 800 deaths in the article you cite. At least, I haven't seen good stats on that.

      As for impacts of those injured — The Atlantic had an article a while ago bemoaning the lack of information on health consequences of non-fatal gun injuries — https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/12/guns-nonfatal-shooting-newtown-las-vegas/548372/.

      • mamajama55 says:

        An at-fault driver in an accident already can be more penalized (more points off, higher fines) for being distracted…by food, devices, whatever. It's why they always ask you that question. So I've heard. wink

        But I agree with Duke’s comment (below)…The only person responsible for eliminating distractions is the driver. The driver has to put down the phone, stop reaching for the fries, stop fiddling with the playlist, turning around to check on the kids or the dog, and pilot the half – ton death machine hurtling down the highway among other death machines. Common sense has to rule somewhere.

        • Conserv. Head Banger says:

          A now deceased friend of mine learned the hard way about distracted driving back in the early 1990s. He was trying to change a CD in the player and ended up totaling the car, inside the westbound Eisenhower Tunnel. What made it worse was that his car was in the shop that day for routine maintenance and what he totaled was the dealer's loaner car.

  4. Duke Cox says:

    Have you ever looked in the door of a police car? Computer screens (plural), phones, radios, dials, …  There are distractions aplenty in there. What makes it safe for a cop?

    Are we ready to criminalize ALL distracted driving? I guess we could make calling a privilege for those who can afford hands free phones and just make poor people pay the price.

    How about this? No kids in the car to distract you. No food in the car to distract you. While we are at it, no pets.

    Where do we draw this line?


    • Davie says:

      As with most legislation, we can only hope to incrementally solve these issues (just as gun violence will never be 100% eliminated, that doesn't mean we should give up and let guns proliferate everywhere).

      From the NHTSA site:

      In 2016 alone, 3,450 people were killed. 391,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers in 2015.

      During daylight hours, approximately 481,000 drivers are using cell phones while driving. That creates enormous potential for deaths and injuries on U.S. roads. Teens were the largest age group reported as distracted at the time of fatal crashes.

      Cell phones and texting have been prevalent even before the iPhone was introduced in 2007, so the problem isn't just limited to today's teens.  All age groups are tempted by the "convenience" of staying in touch with friends and family, getting work done while commuting, etc. (a coworker of mine was reading her status report to the division while commuting on the 405 in California — the last words we heard before she hung up was "Oh oh oh, I'm going to get a ticket".  From then on, she stayed in the office to attend the conference call.)

    • JohnInDenver says:

      One of my friends, a police sergeant at the time, exited from a roll call meeting to go get into the squad car.  Was hit while in a crosswalk between the police office building and the parking lot, by … wait for it … one of the officers on the SAME squad. He had gotten out of the meeting immediately, got to get his squad car, and was driving out to his shift from the parking lot when he hit someone IN A CROSSWALK!.  The explanation? "I was changing the radio channel."   [I don't remember if he said WHICH radio — the tactical radio or the entertainment radio.]

  5. Duke Cox says:

    Please understand that I am in no way defending the practice of being distracted when we drive. Autonomous vehicles are a perfect technological expression of our headlong flight from personal responsibility.

    We have been idiot-proofing our world as long as I can remember. We still are. That's OK…there are idiots aplenty. My dad used to muse occasionally on the subject and would invariably wind up asking us, "Why are there more horses asses than there are horses?" I still don't know why.

    But as long as horses asses drive cars, we still need to teach them all, and be reminded every day why, as mama points out above, we need to pay attention to the task at hand…driving safely. If we wait for autonomous cars to solve the problem, we will be waiting a very long time. 

    It is not a regulatory problem…it is an educational problem.

    My 2 pfennigs.

    • DENependent says:

      I am against making talking on the phone a crime.

      I think that talking while driving is bad, but the whole making "hands-free" talking okay is class warfare (though probably the unaware internal biases kind). Pull over that young probably black guy on a phone in an old beater of a Honda, but that rich woman in a Lexus SUV can keep talking on her hands free device because that is "safe".

      In addition the justice system is already overloaded with misdemeanor cases without the resources to properly manage them. Unless this is going to be paired up with either more money for more judges to hear cases and more officers to enforce the law it is a bad idea.

  6. DavidThi808 says:

    What about using it for directions? Without Waze it takes my wife & me an additional 10 minutes to find a restaurant in Denver.

    What about Lyft & Uber drivers who have that to get their next customer, and then mark when the ride is complete?

    I'm all in favor of reducing distracted driving, but it needs to keep appropriate use. And be worded in such a way that it doesn't stop appropriate uses that haven't been thought of yet.

    • Davie says:

      Well, if I'm driving and my wife is in the passenger seat, getting ad hoc directions to restaurants is pretty simple:  she invokes this magical incantation:  "Siri, give us directions to {name of restaurant|type of restaurant}".  Then as always, I listen to my wife (or Siri) tell me where to go wink   

      Lyft & Uber drivers have their hands-free phones in line of sight and the app doesn't appear to require complex steps to operate it, and in my experience they are stopped when they complete the ride.

      As for anticipating future uses, I'd have to defer to our Founding Fathers' wisdom of setting down general principles to guide future and letting future generations figure it out.  Thus "hang up and drive", "pull over to get directions if you aren't sure where you are going", "have a passenger assist you whenever possible", etc.

      It’s the uncommon quality of exercising common sense.

      • DavidThi808 says:

        >> Well, if I'm driving and my wife is in the passenger seat, getting ad hoc directions to restaurants is pretty simple…

        I agree. But what about when you're driving by yourself?

        • Gray in Mountains says:

          Do it before you drive. Like when you urinate

        • Davie says:

          But what about when you're driving by yourself?

          David, remember the part about pulling over to get directions (either by using your in car navigation which doesn't let you enter a new destination when you are moving anyway, or asking Google Now or Siri for directions, or calling your On Star service or similar?). 

          It's not like you don't have choices (like, gasp! planning ahead, or look out your car window and see which one of hundreds of great eats are available all over Denver appeal to you the most 😉  If you need highly discriminating advice, have you tried Open Table?  My wife swears by it — just not when she’s driving.

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