Texting while driving illegal in Colorado
Texting While Driving Illegal in Colorado
Monday, November 30, 2009
While praising the intent of a new state law addressing drivers and cellular phones, Interim Grand Junction Police Chief John Camper said Monday that his department won’t undertake extraordinary steps to enforce it.
“I don’t see us doing any sort of proactive enforcement efforts here,” Camper said. “We’re not going to stand on street corners watching for kids driving while texting.
“But clearly like any other traffic violation, if (officers) see it, they should be dealing with it,” he added.
Camper said the department is reviewing the law, and a training bulletin will be issued to his patrol officers on how to approach enforcement.
As of today, it’s illegal for Coloradans to send text messages, e-mails and tweets while operating a vehicle. The new law also prohibits anyone younger than 18 years from using a cell phone at all while driving.
While proponents hailed the new law as a step toward improving public safety, critics have pegged it as a “feel-good” measure that will be difficult to enforce.
Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle said officers may find it hard to determine the age of drivers — prior to traffic stops — as well as figuring out if they’re dialing phone numbers or texting.
Camper said he’s fine with the law.
“Certainly, it’s going to be harder to detect than most violations, such as running a red light or speeding,” he said. “That being said, there are times when it’s pretty easy to articulate what a driver is doing.”
Among the unique aspects of the new law, a police officer must actually witness the illegal use of a cell phone; they can’t bring charges on the basis of witness statements, according to Camper.
Trooper David Hall, spokesman for the Colorado State Patrol at the agency’s headquarters in Lakewood, said drivers statewide shouldn’t expect a grace period, or a time frame when violators will be issued warnings rather than tickets.
Hall said he believes the new law isn’t redundant with an existing statute that prohibits careless driving.
“Right now (before new law), if I look over and see another driver texting over their phone, I may or may not be able to write that person for careless driving,” Hall said. “This provides us clear examples.”
“Now we’re not waiting for a traffic accident to happen in order to write somebody up for careless driving,” he said.
Drivers won’t necessarily need to be driving to be cited for cell phone use, Hall added.
The law may still consider drivers as operating a motor vehicle even when stopped on the shoulder of a roadway, with keys still in the ignition.
“It happens a lot in DUI cases and that’s a fine point of law that’s argued every day,” he said. “If you’re under 18, just don’t put yourself in those situations.”
In addition to Colorado, 18 other states and the District of Columbia have implemented restrictions on texting-while-driving. A national survey completed by AAA found 95 percent of drivers disapprove of texting while behind the wheel, but 18 percent of those people admitted to texting or e-mailing while driving in the past month.
— The Associated Press contributed to this story.