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Colorado’s Law Against Texting and Driving

On behalf of Dolan + Zimmerman LLP November 6, 2017

In the last few years, texting and driving has become a focus of many transportation and police departments across the country. As studies continue to show distracted driving as a major cause of car accidents, many states have strengthened their laws prohibiting it. Colorado is no exception.

The scenario

Imagine you are driving home from work and get stuck in traffic. We’ve all been there. You’re barely moving and want to let your spouse know you’ll be late getting home. What do you do? If you’re like most people, you grab your phone and fire off a quick text: “Stuck in traffic. Be home late.” When traffic isn’t moving, or you’re stuck at a red light, are you committing a traffic offense?

A new law

You are. However, whether or not you are cited is going to depend on whether or not your use of your phone while driving actually went along with careless driving on your part. A new Colorado law that took effect on June 1, 2017 makes it a class 2 misdemeanor traffic offense to engage in text messaging or other manual data entry while operating a motor vehicle. If the texting or other manual data entry is the proximate cause of bodily injury or death to another person, it is classified as a class 1 traffic misdemeanor.

The law also states that a driver shall not be cited for a violation unless a law enforcement officer saw the driver use a phone to text in a manner that caused the driver to drive carelessly. “Carelessly,” in this context, means without due regard for the width, grade, curves, corners, traffic, and use of the streets and highways and all other attendant circumstances.

What to do if you’re stopped for texting and driving

If you are pulled over for texting and driving, it is wise to tell the officer that you are choosing to exercise your right to remain silent. While you should be courteous and cooperate by give the officer your license, insurance information and registration, you should avoid admitting to anything at all.

If you receive a citation from the officer, you should contact a lawyer. While a traffic citation may not seem like much to worry about, points on your license can put you that much closer to losing your driving privileges. If you are over 21, it only takes 12 points in a year for your license to be suspended. If you are under 21, it takes even less. Adding four to it means you won’t have much room for error.