Two years after texting and driving became illegal in Colorado, many are aware of the crime. But distracted drivers remain rampant.
Asked whether the texting motorist is a common sighting, Thurston replied: "Only, I would say, frequently, on a daily basis, multiple times in the day."
The crime is difficult to enforce. For adults, using a cell phone for texting or data entry is illegal, but dialing or looking up a contact to make a phone call is not.
Because it's a primary offense, police can pull someone over just for texting and driving, but it's tough to see what people are doing on their phones.
And as with most criminal activities, motorists are more discreet when there's a clearly-marked patrol car in the next lane.
Corporal Nelson Sanderson with Larimer County Sheriff's Office said he doesn't see nearly as many violations when he's in his sheriff's cruiser as when he's in his personal vehicle.
"I'm actually quite shocked at the lack of attention when people are operating a motor vehicle," he said. "It's almost frightening to watch."
Since texting and driving became illegal in December 2009, the sheriff's office has written only one citation.
Fort Collins Police Services has written 41, (20 in 2010, 21 in 2011) with one warning. In Boulder, police have written 15.
Meanwhile, Fort Collins tallied 3,561 traffic collisions in 2010, down only 21 from 2009.
The city's records departments don't track crashes involving texting, so there's no data to indicate what direct impact the law might have had.
"I still see plenty of people texting on their cell phones while driving in town or on the highway," said Fort Collins State Rep. Randy Fischer. He said he's not aware of any statewide data analyzing whether texting-and-driving instances have changed since the law was passed.
Fischer, who co-sponsored the legislation with fellow Democrats Rep. John Kefalas and Sen. Bob Bacon, had intended for the law to include both voice and text, but there wasn't enough support in the state Legislature. Rather, only people under 18 are prohibited from talking on the phone and driving.
Violations can result in fines of $50 for a first offense and $100 for repeat offenders.
While campaigns and laws across the country have brought more attention to texting and driving, some Coloradans say they're concerned about distracted driving in general, but there's no law against it here.
"We see people reading a newspaper, shaving, putting on make-up, all kinds of weird things that they're doing when they're driving," said Fort Collins police Sgt. Joel Tower, adding that he regularly runs radar and laser speed enforcement but hasn't seen anybody texting and driving.
Fischer, too, said he would like to see a law against distracted driving.
Raygina Kohlmeier, 31, a Fort Collins-area resident said texting and driving is "a waste of a law."
"I don't know why they made a law about (texting) ... because everybody messes with something when they drive," she said.
The hazards of texting and driving are obvious, especially to Thurston, who remembers one close call at College and Horsetooth.
A couple months ago, he was at a stoplight westbound on Horsetooth when the light turned green. A woman in a Cadillac SUV was traveling east when she turned left, from the right lane, as though she had been in a double-left-turn lane with a green arrow.
She was clearly texting, he said.
"I had to literally stop in the intersection to let her through," Thurston said, adding that such events are "so commonplace" that they don't even "make the break-room chatter."
Kristi Knowles, 44, of Fort Collins said she "almost got T-boned" at Prospect and Riverside 18 months ago when a texting motorist ran a red light.
"It must have freaked her out or something, because I honked and she actually went through ... and whipped a U-turn," she said. "It was kind of a bizarre reaction. She was also really hauling."
Knowles said she never texts and drives and has a hands-free device for talking in her vehicle.
Narrower streets, slower trafficWhile some call for more traffic laws to ease distracted driving, a Fort Collins cycling instructor advocates a bolder approach: narrower lanes, more curb bump-outs and slower traffic.
"You don't drive down the street in Italy texting because it's so congested and more densely populated," said Rick Price. "We need to create some of those conditions here, where people need to be really paying more attention to what they're doing."
He said local roads are so wide that it causes people to become too comfortable and easily distracted. The strategies of Dan Burden, a Florida-based expert in alternative transportation and community design, appear workable for a place like Fort Collins, he said.
"I'm talking 10 foot lanes instead of 12 to 14 foot lanes," Price said. "Narrower streets automatically reduce traffic speeds."
Price is chair of the city's Bicycle Advisory Committee, and he writes a twice-monthly column for the Coloradoan.
As a cyclist, he said he sees people "all the time talking on the phone," and texting or dialing. He said it's getting worse, particularly near the Colorado State University campus.
"The car is a phone booth," he said.
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