Colorado is poised to dramatically increase the punishment for texting while driving under a bill that easily passed the state House on a 56-8 vote Monday morning.
One of the bill’s sponsors State Senator Lois Court said she spoke with the governor and is confident he will sign it into law.
“Oh, absolutely,” she said.
“Careless driving, distracted driving has become epidemic,” said Court.
The senator said the increased fine not about collecting more money but creating a deterrent.
Some hesitant Republicans in the Senate came on board when the fine was tamped down to $300 and language was included to ensure that drivers can only be issued a ticket if using a device actually led them to drive “in a careless and imprudent manner.”
“You look down for a second or two, you know a lot of things can happen,” said Colorado State Patrol Trooper Nate Reid.
He said troopers write distracted driving tickets daily for multi-tasking behind the wheel.
“They're going, you know, sometimes highway speeds. Sometimes 75 miles an hour at 110 feet per second. You’re covering a lot of ground,” said Reid.
While texting and actively operating a moving vehicle remains unlawful, if the bill gets the governor's signature, texting while at a red light or stopped in traffic will not get you a ticket.
“That’s not dangerous behavior. But if you’re driving down the highway and you’ve got one hand on the wheel and you’re doing this (looks up and down) that’s dangerous behavior and you’re going to kill someone if you’re not really careful and it happens, it happens all too frequently,” said Court.
Supporters hope the increased penalty will encourage police to more aggressively ticket people who text and drive.
The bill covers more than just text messaging: State law would consider any sort of interaction with a smartphone screen that leads to distracted driving to be a potential violation.