DENVER — Sponsors of Senate Bill 22-175, or the Mobile Electronic Devices and Motor Vehicle Driving bill, say at its heart, it's a public safety bill.
“It's about making our streets safer,” said bill sponsor Senator Chris Hansen, D-Arapahoe.
If passed, the bill would prohibit all handheld phone call use while behind the wheel.
Drivers under the age of 18 are already prohibited from using cellphones while driving. SB 22-175 would prohibit cellphone use for all drivers.
“This is really what the bill is about, trying to make sure that people have their hands free so that they can drive and concentrate on the road,” said Hansen.
If passed, the first offense would be a $150 fine and two license suspension points. The penalties would increase with repeated offenses in the span of 24 months. Drivers could have the fine removed if they show proof of buying a hands-free device.
Craig Towler was almost killed in a crash years ago by a driver who was impaired and distracted. He says he wants people to know that behind the statistics of distracted driving, there are people living with the repercussions.
“It's important to also recognize that when people are seriously injured, that life goes on and that we want to not just be a headline in the news," said Towler. "But you know, again, it's really just about humanizing the people involved in our experiences."
Authorities would be able to pull drivers over if they see someone using or holding their phone. Senator Rhonda Fields, D-Arapahoe, says this bill would not increase profiling or unnecessary stops.
“I think it’s a valid concern, but the data that I’ve seen, which suggests that people of color are more impacted by a distracted driver … you’re more apt to be hit and [be the victim of] a fatality or an accident by someone who’s distracted driving," said Fields.
A similar bill was rejected in 2020 due to concerns over police profiling and unnecessary traffic stops.
“We went back and really changed the bill to respond to that concern, and embedded in the proposed bill language is data tracking to make sure that we don't have a disproportionate policing problem in the state,” said Hansen.
A CDOT report last month showed the majority of drivers are distracted by eating or drinking while driving, not cellphone use.
“This bill does not address eating and driving, but what it does address is those who are texting, reading or have a handheld device in their hand while they're driving, because that could be distracting,” said Fields.
So far, 24 states have passed similar legislation. Hansen says those states have also seen about a five percent reduction in car insurance rates for drivers.