Colorado Legalizes Another Vice: Texting While Driving

from the with-a-little-context dept

Distracted driving laws and the crusade against distractions in the car have a history that goes back many years. Generally, the trend has been to try to ban each new distraction that comes along, and to seek to place the blame on device makers and automakers for not figuring out how to reliably disable those devices. There was even a ruling in California that made it illegal for a driver to use a mapping app. But now, the state of Colorado has done something unexpected, and perhaps even… reasonable.

The state has made it legal to text while behind the wheel, unless it’s done in a “careless or imprudent manner.” While the new law does give a reprieve to those who use their phones in a safe manner (e.g., while at red light, or stopped in traffic), it also significantly increases the penalties for those who run afoul of the “carelessness” provision. As we’ve written before, there are many potential distractions inside a vehicle, and eliminating them all would be impractical, if not impossible. So this new law puts the focus on the dangerous behavior instead of the potential distraction itself, holding the driver responsible for unsafe actions.

Before now, any text messaging or manual data entry by a motorist was prohibited. “The simple fact is that if you are texting while driving but not being careless, it’s no longer illegal,” said Tim Lane at the Colorado District Attorneys’ Council.

While the change does appear to have support among law enforcement, it is still understandably controversial.

“The focus of the law isn’t for people who are stopped at stop lights or pulled over on the road texting,” said Mike Phibbs, the legislative chair for the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police. “I think it’s actually helped clarify the issue and targets what’s really causing the problem.”

But officials acknowledge that it is now harder to issue citations to drivers for texting while driving — and that the law opens the door to more legal challenges in court.

There is a reasonable concern that having what amounts to a conditional ban will embolden people to push the limits of what is acceptable behavior, or just make it more likely that people won’t worry as much about texting while driving, since it is now “legal.” However, the hope is that the severity of the penalties for the illegal behavior — even for first time offenders — will make drivers more cautious in how they use their phones. Either way, it’s good to see a focus on actual bad behavior, rather than a broad ban on activity that might be bad, depending on circumstances.

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Comments on “Colorado Legalizes Another Vice: Texting While Driving”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

That is a stretch, not even close to being comparable.

Clearly, there are circumstances that the driver is not in complete control of. For example, drivers can not control what other drivers are doing and therefore there is a possibility that they will be hit by that other driver – so wearing their seat belt is advisable even when at a stop light. Distracted driving is not compatible to wearing a seat belt.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

huh? what you said makes no sense. The OP did not imply what you are saying.

He is just stating that if the “unsafe” action of texting is legal then so should the option of not wearing a seat belt.

Seat-belt laws are nothing more than cash grab material. Sure it is stupid for people to not wear one, but that is their choice. If people want to risk their lives, that is their choice, government really has no right to proxy parent you.

Just look at it this way… lets REMOVE all the warning labels and let the problem take care of itself!

JoeCool (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Seat belt laws are NOT a cash grab… well, the police can turn ANYTHING into a cash grab, but seat belts have tons of actual reasons to be mandatory. Helping prevent (serious) injuries in an accident is only the most visible reason.

Seat belts help keep the driver where he needs to be – behind the wheel. I saw an accident when I was a kid where a driver just turning the corner slid across the front bench seat (yes, some vehicles have bench seats in the front, especially older vehicles) because he wasn’t wearing a seat belt.

Seat belts also help make sure passengers aren’t moving around in the vehicle, which can also cause problems for the driver. Hell, it keeps the DRIVER from moving around when he shouldn’t be. I’ve seen idiots who take their seat belt off while driving so they can reach something in the back seat… while on the freeway doing 70.

Seat belts help keep people from trying to carry too many passengers – don’t put 17 people in a vehicle meant for five. If you need to move enough people to require a bus, get a damn bus!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

I get it, you are pro-nanny state.

If you are okay with removing personal liberty under the guise of “safety” well… you really don’t deserve either of them.

It is TOTALLY a cash grab. It always is. If they wanted to be serious they would instead create a system that tracks the number of citations you have and then just take your driving privileges away when you can’t behave.

The legal system is nothing more than one giant money mill designed to separate people from their money under the guise of public safety. There are much better ways, but this way gets them MONEY, so that one is the one we use!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

What about my personal liberty to not get slammed into because some guy decided to reach for the bottle in his back seat?

Your estate will sue his estate. Even though they won’t recover anything, that’ll make everything hundy-dory. They might actually get a copy of his motto, though: "If you don’t like the way I drive, stay off the sidewalk."

JMT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

"Seat-belt laws are nothing more than cash grab material. Sure it is stupid for people to not wear one, but that is their choice. If people want to risk their lives, that is their choice, government really has no right to proxy parent you."

Just curious, who do you think pays for the millions of dollars worth of medical care required to treat the serious injuries of all those who survive unbelted crashes?

And have you considered the net loss to society caused by serious injuries and deaths? If the government acting as a proxy parent upsets your conservative sensibilities so much, why don’t you instead look at it as the government protecting it’s financial investment and not wanting to lose your tax dollars.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I would like a HUD, but it does need a lot of development and testing. There is an obvious limit to the amount of disruptive information that can go onto an interface as well.

Plus try not to over sell the HUD idea. People up in a plane where instant obstacles like flying rocks, people cutting in and aircraft flying around 3-10 feet from each other is just not a reality. Instrumentation is an obvious improvement for air craft, but not necessarily for a vehicle designed around moving stupid people from point A to point B is the least complex way possible for the user.

Rusty Eulberg (profile) says:

texting while driving

I don’t think we need specific news laws for cell phone use

I just wish when yet another driver nearly kills me on my motorcycle, because of whatever stupid reason they weren’t paying attention, That the police would charge them appropriately — some felony like reckless endangerment or attempted manslaughter

30,000 people a year in the US– that’s ten 9/11s every year on our highways

Don Morse says:

Re: texting while driving

Yep, now that they’ve inhaled enough MJ smoke, it’s time to let the irresponsibles off all the hooks of responsibility. Agreed, on my M/C riding here in Southern California, it’s appalling to see the stuff going on that cage cretins perform while attempting to control their vehicle. THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS NON-DISTRACTED TEXTING WHILE DRIVING. This is not enforcing a “Nanny State”, it’s simply protecting ME as I’m on the road not wanting to get run over by the idiots who think they can text and drive.
Sorry, allowing texting which WILL result in distracted driving, WILL eventually cause an accident where some poor innocent will perish at the hands of these morons. A slap on the wrist to the offending distracted driver will NOT compensate the family of the murdered motorist.

John85851 (profile) says:

How about laws that cover all distracted driving?

How about laws that cover all distracted driving? Otherwise, it goes something like this:

Officer: I pulled you over for playing with the radio.
Person: No, sir, I was texting, which is legal.

New law: texting while driving is illegal.

Officer: I pulled you over for texting while driving.
Person: No, sir, I was checking Facebook, which is legal.

New law: using Facebook while driving is illegal.

Officer: I pulled you over for using Facebook.
Person: No, sir, I was sending out a tweet, which is legal.

New law: using Twitter while driving is illegal.

Officer: I pulled you over for using Twitter.
Person: No, sir, I was sending an e-mail.

And on and on and on.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: How about laws that cover all distracted driving?

Because if a law is too broad, the police will just pull you over for being black on a Friday night which is distracting a lot of other folks.

yes, it can be simplified, but never discount how fast people with authority will use it to fuck with you. Police have ego’s, bad days, emotions, and idea about how society should operate as well. And they don not always agree with yours or the current culture they are policing.

DannyB (profile) says:

Re: How about laws that cover all distracted driving?

as long as it isn’t done in “a careless or imprudent manner.”

I think everyone is missing the whole point of Colorado’s law.

In a nutshell, if you’re going to do something inherently dangerous, it’s okay as long as you don’t do this dangerous thing in a dangerous, careless, or imprudent way.

If you’re going to swing a gun around wildly and pull the trigger, then please do it carefully. You should first have some belief that it is probably unloaded.

As long as you’re using safety measures like that, everyone else around you will be okay with whatever the outcome.

Jeremy Lyman (profile) says:

Glad it's not my state.

I understand the appeal of this, codifying the subjective enforcement that already happens, but I think there are some heavy downsides. It’s transferring onus from an objective action, to a subjective state. I don’t think anyone pulls out their phone and says, I’m going to drive while distracted now. When you’re distracted, you don’t notice you’re not paying attention. This encourages drivers, instead of a flat ban on holding a phone, to approach that nebulous divide between attentive and distracted. Dance back and forth with injury and death, and see if you come out a winner today. Smart. I can’t see reduced enforcement and higher penalty making a difference, we should all watch to see what happens to the accident rates in CO.

t3rminus (profile) says:

Bad bad bad.

Give people an inch, they take a mile.
In 2104 some Canadian highways had speed limits raised from 100km/h (60mph) to 120km/h (75mph).

Part of the reasoning is that they were not very busy stretches of Highway, and people were going 120km/h anyway.

Fast forward to 2016 with an 11% increase in crashes, they’re now lowering the speeds again.

Turns out people go over the speed limit, regardless of what the speed limit is. If it’s 100km/h, they do 120km/h. If it’s 120km/h, they do 140 or more.

Make it illegal to text, and people will push it a bit, and do it where they think is safe (and probably get away with it).

Make it legal to text where safe, and people will push it a bit, and do it where it might not be entirely safe (and probably crash).

Anonymous Coward says:

That $300 fine will be no significant deterrent. I was on the phone with a friend of mine a couple years ago, me at home and he in his car (he answered when I called him, he shouldn’t have). He was pulled over by a cop and I heard the first half of their conversation. The cop issued him a ticket for $280 for use of a cell phone while driving. Though my friend griped at me about it as though it was my fault he answered his phone, he answered again while driving less than a week later.

Stupid is as stupid does and no amount of laws will change that.

tom (profile) says:

If someone is found guilty of reckless driving due to texting or other misuse of tech gizmos, they should be banned from owning or using both a car and the gizmo in question for at least a year if not longer. Distracted driving is on par with randomly firing a gun while blindfolded. It is easier to lose the right to own a gun(despite the 2nd amendment baring infringement) then to lose the right to drive a car or own a cell phone.

Anonymous Coward says:

Drinking and Driving?

“The simple fact is that if you are texting while driving but not being careless, it’s no longer illegal,” said Tim Lane at the Colorado District Attorneys’ Council.

Multiple studies have shown that things like texting while driving can be more impairing than drinking and driving. So, why not do the same for drinking and driving, so long as you’re not being careless? We could even have a system where you can have your alcohol level measured before taking a driving test and, if you pass the test, then you are allowed to drive at that level in the future.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Drinking and Driving?

Numerous studies have shown that Drunks can train themselves to be able to perform the sobriety test and they’ll pass perfectly… until the LEO decides to throw in a new twist, NOW they’re no longer performing an automated action and fail miserably.

People can drink and drive very well… the vast majority of people that drink and drive get home safely and without incident. The problem is the same problem that self-driving cars have but the representatives of the companies (and the idiots who read TechDirt) don’t understand… the instant there is something new or unexpected thrown into the system, the response of the system is unpredictable and the chance of collision drastically increases.

Yes, I did say it. Self-Driving cars are functioning on the level of a drunk or a person who is texting and driving. It’s not about having your eyes on the road, it’s about having your full mind on the road, and neural networks are only capable of the auto-pilot portion of our minds, where we perform the maneuvers but do not process why we’re performing them.

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