Lawmakers Mulling Over Cell Phone Ban

By: Tim Ciesco Email
By: Tim Ciesco Email

This week, a bill that would all but ban Colorado residents from using cell phones while they're driving cleared its first major hurdle.

Using a cell phone while driving -- it's something many drivers say they've been known to do more than just once.

"I'm probably guilty of it too," said Grand Valley resident Kelley Griffin. "Talking and driving."

And it's something they say has led to more than just a few close calls.

"I've almost been in a couple [of accidents]," said teen driver Gage Crowe. "Actually I was almost in one with my mom."

"I see it everywhere," said Griffin. "Even at stop signs or stop lights."

In some cases, it's led to even worse things. State Representative Claire Levy, (D) Boulder, says she's seen too many accidents and heard too many tragic stories when it comes to cell phones and driving -- and it needs to stop.

"I felt it was a public safety issue that we needed to address in Colorado," said Levy. "When you're on your phone, you're a danger to other people out there."

She says that's why she introduced House Bill 1094 -- a bill that would put strict limits on using cell phones while driving.

"Cell phone use is by far the most distracting, it's engaged in more frequently than other forms of distraction, and it lasts for a longer duration," said Levy.

If passed the bill would ban anyone under the age of 18 from using a cell phone for calls or text messaging while they're behind the wheel. It would also ban anyone older than 18 from using a cell phone while driving unless they have a hands free device.

The bill does make exceptions for emergency situations and contacting public safety agencies. But get caught using a cell phone behind the wheel for anything else it'll cost you -- $50 to $100 dollars in fines and points on your license. The bill would make using a cell phone while driving a primary offense, meaning law enforcement could pull you over for doing it.

Some say they like the prospect of limited cell phone use.

"It makes driving and talking a lot easier and safer I think," said Gina Tallman, a Grand Valley resident who already uses a hands free device.

"I think it's a great idea if they can get it passed," said Griffin.

In an email sent to 11 News, Grand Junction Police Department spokeswoman Kate Porras said, "People using cell phones while driving is a big concern for our officers. Rarely does a week go by when our traffic officers are not responding to a crash in which the driver was using a cell phone at the time. Drivers need to have their attention focused on driving their cars, and not be distracted by their cell phones."

But others say it goes too far. Crowe, who is 17-years-old feels the bill unfairly targets teens.

"I think it's pretty unfair," said Crowe. "The reason why is probably for safety, but I've seen people that are thirty-five drive worse than me when they're on their cell phone."

He says in many cases, having a cell phone around is a good thing.

"You've gotta know what's going on, or if your parents need you or something," said Crowe. "You just need one."

Critics of the bill also point out that drivers are distracted by more than just cell phones. But Levy says she had good reason for targeting them.

"These other forms of distraction don't engage your mind to the extent to which a phone call does," said Levy.

On Tuesday, the House Transportation and Energy Committee gave the bill the green light in a 9-2 vote. It now heads to the House Appropriations Committee for approval, before it can before the entire House.


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