Weak vehicle laws and smartphone addiction are deadly

Colorado laws have not kept up with the growing addiction and temptation of using personal electronic devices. While government officials and the police agree that using these devices and driving are dangerous and cause motor vehicle accidents, the laws remain weak.

Colorado law prohibits texting and driving except in an emergency. But this behavior cannot be prosecuted unless they witness drivers using these devices engaging in dangerous driving. Violations can lead to a $50.00 traffic ticket or imprisonment if a crash leads to death or injury.

Any driver under 18 can use a cell phone while driving, except in an emergency. No Colorado law, unlike 22 other states, currently requires hands-free devices such as Bluetooth.

In 2017 there were over 34,000 fatal crashes across the country that claimed 37,000 lives. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that distracted driving accounted for nine percent of these accidents and using a cellphone accounted for only 434 crashes. However, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety said that there is no reliable data for accidents caused by distracted drivers.

An informal study of five Denver intersections between 4:00 and 5:00, the time that accidents are most common, underscore this problem. Distracted driving instances ranged from 37 to 118 among these locations. Using phones or other similar devices was the most common distraction which also included reaching for an object and adjusting a vaping pen.

But Denver police cited distracted driving laws only five times in 2019 and 39 times in 2018, usually in conjunction with other offenses such as drunk driving or where a death or injury was involved. Last year, however, there were 71 traffic fatalities and 500 crash injuries in Denver.

Stricter laws may be hard to enforce. But these may discourage using electronic devices in the car.

A victim of these crashes may be entitled to compensation. An attorney may be able to gather evidence to pursue this right in court.

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