Everywhere you look, people are using their using cell phones – this unfortunately includes our roads and highways. In this article, we provide facts and statistics that should make you reconsider before grabbing your cell phone device while behind the wheel. The greater prevalence of cell phones in our society is cause for concern that this may lead to increased incidents of distracted driving. This article also covers the law in Colorado with respect to cell phone usage and driving, as of 12/3/18.
Distracted Driving Statistics
Distracted driving is the act of driving while engaged in any other activity, including texting, talking on a cell phone, looking after children or animals, talking to a passenger, watching videos, eating, adjusting the radio or temperature settings, reading—anything that takes a driver’s attention away from focusing on the road. Distracted driving is a problem that spans all age groups.
More than 25% of all car crashes in America are likely caused by cell phone usage. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) of the United States Department of Transportation, distracted driving claimed 3,450 lives in 2016 alone and 391,000 more were injured. Texting is the distraction that causes the most concern while driving. The NHTSA estimates that sending or reading a text message can take the driver’s eyes off the road for five (5) seconds. While driving 55mph, that is like driving the length of a football field with your eyes closed. Safe operation of a motor vehicle requires that the driver give his or her full attention to driving. Learn More at https://www.nhtsa.gov/risky-driving/distracted-driving.
In Colorado, distracted drivers cause an average of 40 crashes every day. In 2016, CDOT reported 67 deaths that involved Colorado distracted drivers. From 2015 to 2016, CDOT reported an 11% spike in traffic-related deaths, an increase from 547 traffic deaths in 2015 to 605 deaths on Colorado roads in 2016. In Colorado between 2012 and 2015, approximately 57,298 distracted-driving crashes occurred. Learn more at https://www.codot.gov/safety/distracteddriving. There may also be reason to believe that the occurrence of distracted driving is grossly underreported.
Colorado Law – Cell Phone Usage and Driving
Underage Cellphone Ban – It is illegal for persons under 18 years old or for persons driving with a learner’s permit to use a cell phone while driving. This prohibition includes phone calls, text messages, or similar forms of manual data entry and transmission. Only during certain emergencies are there cell phone use exceptions that permit minors’ cell phone usage while driving, which include the following situations:
- You have reason to fear for your life or safety
- You witness a criminal act or believe one may occur
- To report a fire, traffic accident, road hazards, and medical or hazardous materials
- To report a person driving in a reckless, careless or unsafe manner.
Cell phone use is also permitted in designated parking areas or on the shoulder lane. In all other circumstances, a minor’s use of a cell phone while driving is illegal. Learn more at https://www.dmv.org/co-colorado/safety-laws.php.
Adult Drivers Over 18 Years – According to the Colorado General Assembly Website, “Regular cell phone use for voice calls is permitted. Headphones may be worn in one ear for this purpose. However, adult drivers are prohibited from manual data entry and transmission on a cell phone (i.e., to send a text message or browse the internet while behind the wheel.)” (emphasis added). Learn more at https://leg.colorado.gov/content/distracted-driving-and-cell-phone-use.
For Colorado drivers of any age, it is illegal to text while driving. See https://www.codot.gov/safety/distracteddriving. If an officer witnesses a driver typing on a phone who is driving carelessly, a citation for careless driving may be issued, which is a class 2 misdemeanor traffic offense. Whether the texting and driving amounts to careless driving is generally at the discretion of the witnessing law enforcement officer. The charge is most commonly issued to drivers in a traffic collision.
Careless driving caused by phone use can include the following: driving with only one hand; taking your eyes off the road to reach for a cell phone, make a phone call, or send a text message; failing to keep a proper look out or pay attention to surrounding dangers or distractions because of the use of the cell phone; and being distracted by a conversation on a cell phone, even while using a “hands free” device. Many Courts have found that a driver is legally at fault for causing an accident (negligent) because the driver used a cell phone or other device in some way, shape, or form immediately prior to or during the collision.
Precautions Can Prevent Collisions
If you receive a phone call or text message while driving to which you need to respond, find a safe place to pull over or wait until you reach your destination before you respond by using your cell phone. Driver awareness at all times while driving makes a significant impact on increasing the overall safety of our roads and highways. Taking simple precautions such as these can significantly reduce the risk of an accident, for which you may face criminal or civil liability. In addition, if you are pulled over and ticketed for a cell-phone violation, you will be subject to penalties and fees and may even receive a citation for careless or reckless driving depending on the circumstances.
If your use of a cell phone or other device while driving causes a car crash, you may be liable or found at fault for causing that collision.
If You are Injured in a Car Crash, Contact Shapiro Winthers P.C.
If you’ve been injured in an accident that was not your fault, contact Shapiro Winthers P.C. to find out if we can help. Injuries caused by car accidents can cause work or wage loss, which leads to financial stress. Shapiro Winthers P.C. is here to help you get your life back after being in a car crash that was caused by a distracted driver.
Contact us at (303) 861 – 1000 or visit our website at https://www.colorado-law.net/.