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11-29-09, 10:29 AM #1
Coloroado drivers beware..........:)
Starting Tuesday, it will be illegal to text and drive
Texting while driving will be banned for all drivers, as will all cellphone use for drivers younger than 18. ( Dan Gill, The New York Times )
Don't post to Twitter while merging onto Interstate 25.
Don't steer with your knees while Googling for directions. Don't sneak in a behind-the-wheel response to an e-mail, not even at a stoplight.
The tweet is gone. If you text and drive, cops in Colorado starting Tuesday are going to bust you.
"It's extremely dangerous," Colorado State Patrol spokesman Ryan Sullivan said. "Hopefully . . . by people knowing it's against the law, it will keep people from doing it."
A new law taking effect Tuesday bans texting while driving for all drivers. The law also bans all cellphone use — texting and talking — for drivers younger than 18. The legislature passed the laws during its session this year in the hopes of cutting down on accidents caused by cellphone-distracted drivers.
The new cellphone sins are primary offenses, meaning misbehaving drivers can be pulled over specifically for committing them.
First-time offenders face a $50 fine. A second ticket runs $100.
"My hope is that it saves lives, particularly the lives of teenagers," said state Rep. Claire Levy, a Democrat from Boulder who sponsored the measure in the legislature. "I think it will make our highways safer."
Not that anyone will admit to unsafe driving currently. An informal sampling of metro-area drivers last week found very few who confess to typing on tiny keyboards while driving, even though a AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety survey released last summer showed more than 20 percent of drivers type and steer.
The few who exposed their driver-seat texting typically requested anonymity.
"I try not to, but have I done it? Absolutely," said one woman cradling her lime-green-encased iPhone as she unbuckled her son from the back seat in a grocery parking lot. "We all got cellphones in the first place because we wanted to be connected while on the move. But there are boundaries."
"I do check my messages at stoplights," said Charlotte, who didn't give her last name. "But never when I'm driving. I'm not coordinated enough."
If Shan Sethna of north Denver must text while behind the wheel, he holds his phone between 11 and 1, in his line of sight. Now, he said, "that means I'm more visible to the law."
"I'd rather quit than text unsafely. I can just as easily wait for stoplights or pull over," Sethna said.
But for drivers accustomed to always being in contact, the new law poses greater challenges than just ignoring the phone for a few moments — like, where, exactly is the line between deal-making and law-breaking?
Dialing is allowed
Dialing for a phone call is explicitly allowed under the law. But what about looking — for instance at e-mails — and not touching? What about texting when stopped for traffic or at a light?
And how will police be able to differentiate between what is legal and what is not?
"I might have a hard time not checking it at stoplights," said Kevin, who declined to offer his last name while checking his e-mail in his parked car. "Just taking a quick look. Will that be illegal?"
Sullivan, the State Patrol spokesman, said yes, if it's done in a lane of traffic. The only way to be in the clear is to be pulled over onto the shoulder or parked.
The roadway, Sullivan said, is a place to concentrate on driving and nothing else.
"When you're still in a lane of traffic, you shouldn't be texting, you shouldn't looking at an e-mail," Sullivan said.
Judgment call by officers
The other distinctions — dialing or texting? — will be left to officers' best judgment, Sullivan said.
"You can usually tell when somebody is dialing a few numbers versus when somebody is sending a text message and their focus is entirely on that phone," he said.
Levy acknowledged the law will have "difficult enforcement aspects" that may take some time to sort out but said she hopes the threat of punishment will inspire drivers to quit a dangerous activity once and for all.
Colorado is among 20 states and the District of Columbia that have banned texting while driving for all drivers, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, and the bans come at a time of growing concern nationwide about the dangers of mixing cellphones and cars. President Barack Obama has banned federal employees from sending text messages while driving government vehicles.
"It's the length of time people need to take their eyes off the road to read a text message," said Wave Dreher, a spokeswoman for AAA Colorado, which is part of a nationwide campaign by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety to ban text ing-and-driving in every state.
CDOT alerts via Twitter
The bans, though, also come at a time when government agencies — including those responsible for roadway safety — are using ever more advanced ways to get information directly to people. The Colorado Department of Transportation, for instance, is one of several agencies in the state that will beam road construction and traffic alerts to cellphones via Twitter.
CDOT spokeswoman Stacey Stegman said it's up to the recipients of that information to be responsible in how they view it. Meanwhile, CDOT is launching a series of public service announcements — created by Colorado high school students — to highlight the new cellphone laws and encourage people to follow them.
But changing practiced behavior, even with a new law, won't be easy.
"I don't do it a bunch, but if it's something important, yeah, I'll break the law," said Denver tile artisan James Greiner, one of few who openly acknowledge daily texting and driving. "What are you going to do? Don't lie."Swamp Mafia
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