Bicycle Colorado supports higher penalties for texting while driving
Distracted driving is one of the leading causes of traffic injuries and fatalities, and is particularly dangerous to bicyclists who commute on busy streets and those who enjoy the beautiful and challenging road riding our state has to offer. A leading cause of distracted driving is texting.
In 2009, Colorado passed legislation outlawing texting while driving in response to a distracted driver who tragically killed a Fort Collins girl who was riding her bike. Unfortunately, the existing penalties for a behavior that can have such high consequences do not seem to be much of a deterrent.
Colorado has some of the lowest texting while driving fines in the U.S. Deaths on Colorado’s roadways jumped about 11 percent in 2016 to 605, a total that includes a 15-year-high number of pedestrians (84) and bicyclists (16) killed. In January, Colorado Department of Transportation executive director Shailen Bhatt blamed the surge in crashes on an “epidemic of distracted driving” (Denver Post).
State Sen. Lois Court and State Rep. Jovan Melton recently introduced legislation to increase Colorado’s penalties for texting while driving. Currently, the fine for texting while driving is $50 and one point assessed against the violator’s driver’s license for a first offense, and a $100 fine and one point assessed against the violator’s driver’s license for a second or subsequent offense. SB-27 increases the penalty to a $500 fine and five points for a first offense and a $750 fine and six points for a second or subsequent offense.
The bill recently passed the senate and moved to the house. If you support higher texting penalties, please contact your state representative to let them know they should support SB-27. We have made it very easy for you–no need to look up your legislator!
All that said, Bicycle Colorado is not anti-car. It’s a myth that bicycling, walking and transit advocates don’t like cars–we’d like to make that very clear. We simply believe that our roads can and should be safer than they are for all users.