Politics

Colorado Senate passes ban on taking calls on handheld cellphones while driving 

On Monday, the Colorado Senate put through legislation that seeks to prevent adults from taking calls on cellphones while driving, except when they use a hands-free decide like a Bluetooth headset.

The current laws that are in place allow adult drivers to use cellphones to take calls, but they are prohibited from texting and browsing the internet while behind the wheel.

If the legislation, called Senate Bill 175, is passed, all hand-held cellphone use would be prohibited, as all drivers under the age of 18 are already not allowed to use a cellphone including with hands-free devices. The bill will now be sent to the state House for consideration since the Senate passed it with a vote of 24-10 on Monday.

“This is a great step forward for Colorado,” said Sen Chris Hansen, a Democrat from Denver, who sponsored the bill. “I’ve been hit twice by distracted drivers. Both times, they had their cellphones up to their ears, not paying attention enough to the road, not keeping their hands available to control their vehicle. … Luckily, I’m here to tell the tale, but unfortunately that doesn’t always happen.” 

Several victims of car crashes due to distracted drivers testified in support of the bill during an April 5 committee meeting. The victims included several people who had lost loved ones and a man from Boulder who lost both of his legs in an accident.

Ninety-one percent of Coloradans admitted last year to driving while distracted, as noted by a survey from the Colorado Department of Transportation. The survey uncovered that 54 percent of drivers responded that they read text messages while operating a vehicle and nearly 50 percent talk on cellphones without hands-free accessories.

The bill received bipartisan support as well as opposition. Out of the 10 senators who voted against the measure, seven are Republicans and three are Democrats.

“I find these attempts to be virtually unenforceable and a new, unnecessary burden on law enforcement who should really be spending their efforts to curb the violent crime wave we are seeing in Colorado,” said Sen. Jim Smallwood, a Republican from Parker.

Smallwood described the bill as “another effort to have the government dictating good judgement to our otherwise law-abiding and safe driving citizens.”

ARTICLE: ELIZABETH HERTZBERG

MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE

PHOTO CREDITS: COLORADO POLITICS

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