Distracted Driving Laws in Colorado
Being distracted while operating a motor vehicle is an extremely dangerous activity with potentially lethal consequences. Drinking your morning coffee, changing the radio station, applying makeup, texting a friend are all actions that can divert our attention away from the road ahead and can result in a crash. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, roughly 3,000 people die and about 400,000 are injured in auto accidents caused at least in part by distracted driving in the United States each year.
Similar to other jurisdictions, Colorado has passed legislation that is designed to lessen the scope of this serious problem. Lawmakers in this state have largely focused their attention on preventing distracted driving accidents by prohibiting text messaging and by imposing a ban on all cell phone usage among younger drivers. Although numerous bills have been introduced that would mandate hands-free cell phone usage for all drivers over 18, Colorado currently has no such legal requirement.
Colorado distracted driving laws can be summarized as follows:
- Text messaging while driving a vehicle is prohibited. This prohibition encompasses all manual data entry and browsing the Internet while behind the wheel. Using a cell phone for the purpose of text messaging is also prohibited while stopped at a red light or stop sign.
- All drivers under the age of 18 are prohibited from using a cell phone while operating a motor vehicle entirely. This includes hands-free cell phone use.
- Drivers of any age that are legally permitted to operate a motor vehicle by means of a learner’s permit may not use a mobile communication device while driving.
A notable exception to the above is that drivers of all ages are allowed to use a cell phone – including text messaging – for the purpose of contacting a public safety entity during an emergency situation. More specifically, any driver can use a cell to report a traffic accident, road hazard, fire, or medical emergency; if they fear for their life or safety; if they believe a criminal act is about to be perpetrated; or to report someone who appears to be operating a motor vehicle in an unsafe manner.
Primary & Secondary Enforcement
Distracted driving violations in Colorado are so-called “secondary” traffic offenses. A secondary offense is an offense that someone can be charged with only after they have been stopped for a separate lawful reason. For example, COLO. REV. STAT. § 42-4-239(6)(b) explicitly states an adult motorist can be cited for distracted driving only if (1) a police officer observed someone texting behind the wheel, and (2) the act of texting caused the individual to drive in a careless and imprudent manner as prohibited by COLO. REV. STAT. § 42-4-1402. A primary traffic offense, by contrast, is an offense that gives law enforcement the authority to pull you over and give you a ticket.
The penalties that are associated with distracted driving in Colorado differ depending on the age of the driver. Distracted driving is a Class A traffic infraction for drivers under 18, the first offense being a $50 fine plus one point on your driving record, each subsequent offense carrying a $100 fine plus one point on your driving record.
For motorists 18 and older, distracted driving is a Class 2 misdemeanor traffic offense. First violations carry a $300 fine and four points, with subsequent violations carrying a $300-$1,000 fine, four points, and potentially up to a year in jail.
Contact Whalen Hersh
Proving that the other driver was distracted at the time of your motor vehicle accident is powerful evidence to have in your pursuit of monetary compensation. Evidence of distracted driving can help you receive the compensation you are entitled to, and can sometimes lead to an award of punitive damages if the case proceeds to trial. The highly experienced personal injury lawyers at Whalen Hersh have successfully handled many auto accident cases in which distracted driving played a pivotal role.
If you’ve been injured in a crash and would like to learn more about your legal options moving forward, then we strongly encourage you to schedule a free consultation with one of our lawyers today.