Victims of distracted drivers have legal rights under Colorado law.
According to numbers reported by the Colorado Department of Transportation, there were 486 traffic fatalities on Colorado roadways in 2014, with 43 in Denver alone. Simply put, these statistics are truly tragic, especially when you consider the countless other motorists who were severely injured in motor vehicle collisions during the same period. However, these numbers also illustrate another sad reality – motorists today face constant risk and never ending danger.
One of the most common causes of car accidents in Colorado is also one of the easiest to prevent, distracted driving. In fact, if all drivers were willing to pay more attention while behind the wheel, many accidents could be avoided and many lives saved.
For instance, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), over 3,100 people were killed in car accidents involving distracted drivers on U.S. highways in 2013. How many of these people would be alive today if distracted drivers simply focused on the road?
The biggest distraction, cellphones
Probably the most widespread issue when it comes to distracted driving is cellphone use. To put this problem is perspective, the NHTSA reports that over 660,000 drivers are using their cellphones at any given daytime moment. Even worse, every time a driver decides to text, he or she takes his or her eyes off the road for an average of five seconds – enough time to blindly travel the length of a football field if moving at 55 mph.
Because of the dangers associated with cellphones, many states, including Colorado, have placed restrictions on their use while driving. For example, drivers under the age of 18 cannot use a cellphone ever while behind the wheel, including for telephone conversations or texting. Alternatively, drivers 18-years-old and older can use cellphones to make calls, but cannot text or manually enter information while operating a motor vehicle.
There are some rare exceptions to these laws, however, such as:
- When the driver is contacting a public safety entity
- When the driver is experiencing an emergency, including situations in which he or she must report a fire, a traffic accident, a road hazard or a criminal act
While a violation of Colorado’s anti-texting law will lead to a $50 fine – or a $100 fine if it is the driver’s second or subsequent offense – they may also be held legally accountable for any damages they cause. For instance, if you are injured by a texting driver, you may be able to seek damages in civil court for your injuries, including compensation for lost wages, medical expenses and pain and suffering.
The many other forms of driver distraction
It is important to keep in mind, however, that cellphone use is merely one of many distractions plaguing motorists today. In fact, other common distractions include, but are certainly not limited to:
- Personal grooming, such as putting on makeup of combing one’s hair
- Changing the radio station or adjusting the radio’s settings
- Eating or drinking fast food
- Using a navigations system
- Reading maps and/or newspapers
- Talking to other passengers instead of focusing on the road
Similar to cellphone use, if a driver negligently engages in these activities, he or she may be liable under Colorado law for any resulting injuries. Given how expensive medical care can be, seeking compensation in civil court may be your best, and only, option to acquire financial stability after a motor vehicle collision.
Always seek legal counsel as soon as possible
While the most important thing to do following an accident is to seek medical attention, it is also crucial to speak to an attorney as soon as you are able. An experienced attorney will take the time to listen to your concerns and explain your legal options in terms you can understand. In addition, a lawyer can deal with uncooperative insurance companies and help investigate the cause of your accident, such as securing phone records to prove whether the at-fault driver was using his or her phone at the time of the accident.
You have enough things to worry about after suffering an injury, so let your attorney take care of you legal needs.
Keywords: distracted drivers, traffic fatalities, NHTSA, cellphones, legal rights, Colorado law