In a new survey, the Colorado Department of Transportation reports that a quarter of Coloradans admit to reading a text, e-mail or social media post on their phones while driving. While we're not saying there's anything wrong with CDOT's methodology, we are questioning the other 75 percent of Colorado's drivers who probably lied on said survey and didn't fess up to their road mobile usage.
CDOT spokesman Sam Cole agrees.
"I think it's an underreported phenomena," he says. "Anyone in law enforcement will tell you that. All you have to do is drive down the road and look and see the number of people engaged with their phones directly or indirectly."
To address the problem, CDOT has launched different awareness campaigns during recent summers on social media and even music-streaming website Pandora. But with a 14 percent increase in texting while driving over four years, ad campaigns aren't enough to do the job.
Now state senators Lois Court and Jovan Melton have introduced a bill to curb the deadly habit. SB17-027 would increase the penalty for texting and driving by $300 and four points per offense from the current $50 and one point for the first offense and $100 and one point for the second offense. The bill passed 34 to 1 out of the Senate on Friday, March 3.
"The social norm twenty or thirty years ago was to drive drunk," Cole says. "The social norm today is to drive while using your phone, whether it be texting or reading something off your phone or talking on your phone. It's something that we need to undo and undo fast, because people are dying because of it. "
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But the survey's most concerning findings have to do with the road's most vulnerable users: pedestrians and motorcyclists. Pedestrians fatalities rose 30 percent in one year, from 64 to 84, and motorcycle deaths have increased by 50 percent since 2012, the highest rate ever. Cole says a law requiring helmets would help (one such law was repealed in Colorado about twenty years ago). "If we had all motorcyclists helmeted, we would save...twenty-plus lives," he explains.
Last year, there were 607 traffic fatalities in Colorado, a 24 percent increase in two years.
"Unbuckled fatalities accounted for nearly half of all passenger vehicle deaths," the survey found.