DENVER (CBS4) – Currently in Colorado drivers can be ticketed for texting and driving. Now some lawmakers want to make it easier to punish drivers talking on their cellphones – mainly drivers who don’t use hands-free devices.
In 2009 lawmakers killed a bill that would have allowed police to pull over and ticket anyone with a phone pressed to their ear while driving. Now there’s a new push as smartphones have increased distractions.
“Every day I’m aware she’s gone. Every day it affects our family,” Shelley Forney said.
It’s been five years since the accident that took her daughter’s life and changed Forney’s life forever. Erica Forney was riding her bike when a driver, distracted by her cellphone, hit her.
“Why don’t people realize that this addiction of using a cellphone in the car is like Russian roulette? You are risking your life,” Forney said.
Forney became a national voice for cell-free driving, and in 2009 fought for “Erica’s Law” to require hands-free devices. It was scaled back to ban texting only.
“I think the legislation before was ahead of its time and I think we’ve now caught up to having this conversation and actually passing something that’s going to make our streets a little more safer,” said Rep. Jovan Melton, D-Aurora.
Melton is trying again. His bill would require hands-free devices, but make it a secondary offense, meaning a person could only be charged if they are pulled over for something else. The exception is being in school and construction zones where it would be a primary offense.
“This bill is a step in the right direction,” Forney said.
But Forney says it doesn’t go far enough. She’ll continue to fight for a ban — a law she says worthy of Erica’s name.
“She had a life ripped and taken from her. That could be anybody out there … that could be you tomorrow, that could be your child who was there that morning and gone that afternoon,” Forney said.
Sixteen and 17-year-olds can’t use a phone while driving at all in Colorado
Melton says he has lots of support, but some lawmakers are unconvinced the bill is needed, pointing out distractions like putting on makeup while driving aren’t outlawed.
Research is mixed on whether hands-free devices reduce accidents. Still, 13 other states have outlawed holding a phone while driving.