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Distracted Driving: What you need to know

Posted in Blog on June 29, 2018

Colorado has seen an increase in accidents caused by distracted driving. Distracted driving is defined by the Colorado Department of Transportation as the act of driving while engaged in anything other than driving—texting, looking after passengers, talking on the phone, watching videos, eating, or reading—that takes a driver’s focus away from the road.

How common are distracted drivers? Unfortunately for Colorado, it is Incredibly common.

Distracted drivers cause an average of 40 crashes each day in the state of Colorado.

In CDOT’s 2017 annual mail survey of drivers in the state, the gathered the following data:

  • 89 percent of participants reported driving distracted in the past seven days.
  • 40 percent of drivers admitted to reading a message on their phones.
  • 25 percent sent a message while driving.
  • 53 percent talked on a handheld cell phone.
  • 54 percent talked on a hands-free phone.
  • In 2016, 67 deaths involved Colorado distracted drivers.
  • Distracted driving is a problem across all age groups.

At-fault accidents from the years 2012-2015 were caused most frequently from drivers aged 21-30, with a total of 16,647 accidents; followed by drivers aged 31-40, with  a total of 9,942 accidents.

Cell phones are the number one culprit for distracted driver accidents. It is crucial to be up-to-date on the local laws and repercussions associated with distracted driving when it comes to the use of cell phones.

For most adult Colorado drivers, there are no restrictions on talking on a mobile device while driving. However, for drivers who are under the age of 18, Colorado law prohibits the use of a cell phone while operating a vehicle. It is important to note that there is no exception for hands-free or voice-operated devices, either. The only time the use of cell phones are allowed with underage drivers is when the calls are made to contact a public safety official or during an emergency, (i.e., 9-1-1).

When an underage driver has been issued a ticket for using a cell phone, that ticket is a class-A traffic infraction. The cost is $50 for a first offense and $100 for a second or additional offense. The traffic violation will also add one demerit point to the driver’s driving record for each violation one receives.

For all Colorado drivers, regardless of age, it’s illegal to use a mobile device for text messaging while operating a motor vehicle. However, there are a couple of twists to this law.

Police are only allowed to cite drivers for texting if the violation caused the person behind the wheel to drive dangerously or carelessly.

As with the use of talking on mobile devices while driving, the texting ban does not apply to using a cell phone to contact a public safety official in the case of an emergency.

In most cases, a ticket that is issued for texting and driving is considered a class-2 misdemeanor traffic offense and costs up to $300. However, more severe texting violations that result in injury or the death of another person are considered class-1 misdemeanors or can be cited as a reckless driving conviction. If determined as a class-1 misdemeanor, the driver at fault can expect ten days to one year in jail and/or $300 to $1,000 in fines. Additionally, a texting violation will add four demerit points to the driver’s record.

How can you avoid an accident caused by distracted driving?

If you are an iPhone user, there is the new ‘Do Not Disturb’ feature that purposely does not alert you when someone text messages you, and the feature will respond on your behalf to let the person know that you are driving. Other apps have similar features such as AT&T Drive Mode, LifeSaver, and SafeRide.

Uniquely, the app True Motion Family provides the driver with a “trip score” at the end of every ride to allow the driver to pinpoint exactly where distracted driving occurred by taking snapshots of driving behaviors.

Whether fatal or not, any accident caused by distracted driving is an accident not worth having. Those text messages can always wait.

The emotional and physical trauma can be devastating to all who are involved; the lawsuits that could follow can become a burden and are not worth the risk.  It is essential to know the rules of the road in your local town and to make safe driving a priority. Learn more information at: www.zanerhardenlaw.com.

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