Cell-phone use while driving would be illegal unless device is hands-free under new bill

That car driving slowly or erratically in front of you? Odds are good the person behind the wheel is talking on a cell phone. But unless the driver is under eighteen, doing so is perfectly legal in Colorado.

Representative Jovan Melton would like to change that. A new Melton-sponsored bill that will be heard in a House committee today would make it illegal for a driver to talk on a cell phone while on the road unless it's a hands-free device.

Get details and see the bill below.

In 2009, the Colorado legislature passed a bill banning texting and driving -- and the measure also prohibited drivers under eighteen from using any cell phone, hands-free or not, while piloting a vehicle.

No, the bill hasn't eliminated the behavior, or even diminished it in any obvious way. However, Representative Claire Levy, the bill's sponsor, offered a passionate defense of the legislation at the time, and added that she saw the value in making handheld cell-phone use off-limits for drivers over eighteen, too.

The texting ban was controversial, though, with critics dubbing it a piece of nanny-state legislation that was wholly unenforceable. As such, Levy wasn't ready to push a stricter measure in the immediate wake of the legislation becoming law. "I'm realistic enough to know that I need to maybe wait a year before I try again on that," she said.

Considerably more time than that has passed -- but Melton has now taken up the cause with House Bill 14-1225. The entire document is below, but the summary notes that "the bill prohibits an adult from using a wireless telephone for a phone call while driving unless the person uses a hands-free device."

The text adds that "a person cannot be charged with the offense unless either: The person is stopped for another traffic violation, the officer witnesses the violation, and it occurs in a school or construction zone; or the violation was the cause of a traffic accident."

Punishment would consist of a $50 fine for a first offense, with the cost bumped up to $100 for each one thereafter.

Don't expect these edicts to go into effect anytime soon. The bill will die if it fails to make it out of committee, and even if a majority give their approval, there are plenty of pot holes that could swallow it up along the way.

In the meantime, here's the current draft.

House Bill 14-1225

Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.

More from our Politics archive circa December 2009: "Texting while driving: a passionate defense of the new ban."

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts