Colorado texting-and-driving bill to multiply penalties is heading to the big stage

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I-25 under much traffic. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) denver; colorado; kevinjbeaty; denverite; highway; i25; i-25; cars; traffic;

I-25 under much traffic. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Update: The bill passed the Senate Appropriations Committee, meaning it will go for a vote before the full Senate.

A bill that is gaining momentum in the Colorado legislature would multiply the penalty for texting while driving, but only in certain situations.

Currently, the offense comes with a $50 fine and one point against your license on the first offense; the second offense is $100 and another point.

Under the new bill, SB17-027, the first offense would come with a $300 fine and four points on the driver's license. However, the bill states that the offense would only apply to cases where the person also was observed driving carelessly or imprudently.

The proposal is by Democratic Sen. Lois Court and Rep. Jovan Melton. It passed the Senate Appropriations Committee in a 6-1 vote this morning. An earlier version called for stiffer penalties of $500 for a first offense.

In Colorado, getting more than 12 points in a year results in license suspension for adults.

The new bill applies to the use of phones for any kind of "manual data entry or transmission," which means it also could apply to other uses of devices, as the current law does. Talking on a hands-free phone is still legal, either way.

Colorado Department of Transportation attributed 280 deaths between 2012 and 2015 to distracted driving, along with nearly 3,000 injuries and roughly 5,000 cases of property damage.

Legislative staff expect there will be about 280 texting-and-driving tickets issued per year in the near future.

Correction: An earlier version of this story included figures from an earlier version of the bill.

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