Call To Curb

Nearly everyone – scrap that, everyone – has an oh-man-listen-to-this-with-a-shaking-head story about that nasty driver who spent forever crawling up your tail, only to whip around your car, cast you a glare – and commence with the chattering on the cell phone.

Or the woman who was actually painting mascara onto her lashes at 80 MPH. Or the fella in the honkin’ big SUV, chomping on a Carl’s Jr. Guacamole Bacon Six Dollar Burger, deliriously ignorant of the cars around him. Or the load of teenagers blissfully sailing through a red light, their car literally thumping to the music.

A proposal, HB 1006, would double the traffic violation penalties for “driving while distracted” – and help cut down on potential hazards of the road, maintains state Rep. Paul Weissmann.

But the small government Libertarian Party of Colorado, which “adamantly opposes” the bill, has a question: “Will traffic cops be staking out fast food restaurants with drive thru windows?”“When will our elected officials understand that the people of Colorado don’t need to be told when and where they can listen to music or eat a Big Mac?” asked Libertarian Party chairman Travis Nicks. “The unintended consequences from this type of legislation divert crucial law enforcement resources from tracking down real criminals to increasing revenue for their jurisdiction.” 

Nonsense, says Weissmann, a Democrat from Louisville. The originating idea for the bill, Weissman quipped, “was actually a phone call, from his car, from a Libertarian upset because someone cut him off on the road while talking on his phone.”

Seriously, “This is, I think, a reasonable approach, as it is still legal to do those distracting activities,” Weissmann said. “It just costs you more if you commit a moving violation while doing it.”

As it’s currently written, the proposal would increase the penalties for drivers who are “knowingly districted” – including, but not limited to, cellphone use, headphone or headset use, use of an electronic device including computers, recorders or digital music players, grooming, reading, eating and drinking.

The  Rocky Mountain News reported today that the Colorado State Patrol has begun asking drivers involved in all accidents if they were using their cell phones. National studies have found that “distractions of various kinds cause 23 percent of all vehicle crashes,” the newspaper reports, though the CSP does not currently have any statewide statistics to determine to what extent cell-phone use poses a public safety problem.

Cara DeGette is a longtime editor and columnist at the Colorado Springs Independent.

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