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Will the new Colorado texting laws endanger teen drivers?

A brand new 2017 Colorado law increases the fine for texting while driving from $50 to $300, and the accompanying driver's license points now stand at four. While the state widely disseminated this information at the time it passed the law, less noticeable was the provision that revises the law to make texting while driving legal.

Many state and government agencies have released studies on the dangers of distracted driving, and topping the list are cell phone use and texting. These are major contributors to teen fatalities in motor vehicle crashes. Does the new Colorado law increase the danger for teen drivers?

The addiction to smartphones

It seems as though smartphones have been around forever; we are that accustomed to them. However, the first Apple iPhone was only introduced in 2007, and today, billions of people worldwide use them not only to speak to one another, but to check email, text and access the internet.

To demonstrate how much people rely on these devices, researchers at the University of Texas at Austin conducted experiments with the help of student participants and their smartphones. One of the surprising results was that the mere presence of a smartphone appears to "use up cognitive capacity," even when the owner is not thinking about it. Results from another experiment showed that the higher the dependence on a smartphone, the worse the owner of the phone performed on cognitive tests.

An increase in fatalities

According to 2012 data, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that distracted driving was a factor in injuring 421,000 people and killing 3,328 across the U.S., representing a 9 percent increase from the year before. In fact, the Federal Highway Administration estimates that distracted driving might be a factor in as much as 10 percent of all vehicle crashes. Again, texting is a top cause for distracted driving.

Colorado texting prohibitions

As it now stands in the state of Colorado, the law prohibits texting only if the driver is behaving in a "careless or imprudent manner." It also prohibits young drivers under the age of 18 from using cell phones and from texting. However, the new law only raises the fine from $50 to $100 for those underage drivers. The bottom line here is that the new law is much more lenient, but only time will tell if it poses additional risks to motorists. At the very least, the softer standards do not set a good example for teenage drivers.


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