Hands on the wheel, please; state texting-while-driving ban coming soon

Colorado’s ban on texting while driving—courtesy of House Bill 1094—goes into effect next Tuesday, the first day of December.

So will Colorado drivers limit their texting at all?

It’s a law that will clearly rely on self-enforcement, reports the Online NewsHour with Jim Lehrer:

driving and texting

Enforcement of the statutes has proven challenging. Minnesota was one of the first states to pass a driving-while-texting law, which has now been in effect for more than a year. While the state doesn’t keep data on the number of citations issued for the specific offense, Lt. Matt Langer of the Minnesota State Patrol acknowledges it can be difficult to prove.

“We certainly aren’t ever going to eliminate all the texting that goes on behind the wheel because it’s such a prolific part of our culture now,” said Langer. “But the statute is clear and it does give our troopers great authority to enforce it when they witness this behavior.”

An officer witnessing the infraction, or a driver who volunteers the information after being pulled over, are two of the main ways the citations are issued. Troopers can request phone usage records, but Langer said that option is usually only used in cases of serious accidents causing property damage or injury.

In Douglas County, the News Press reports that the Sheriff’s Office intends to use “discretion” in attempting to determine whether or not a driver has been texting:

Police officials say enforcement of the restrictions can become sticky because it is difficult to prove in a court of law that someone was e-mailing instead of, for example, dialing a phone number. Portable global positioning systems and digital music players might also fall into a grey area. Officers will use their discretion and indicators, such as swerving, when deciding whether to pull someone over, said Cocha Heyden, spokeswoman for the [Douglas County] sheriff’s office.

The bill also bans all cell-phone use for drivers under 18 and other high-risk users.

First offenses carry a $50 fine. Subsequent offenders will be fined $100 per incident.

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