Traffic jam westbound I-70 highway with snow covered mountains Colorado

A traffic jam on westbound I-70 in Colorado.

A proposed bill would ban hand-held phone use while driving marks the fourth attempt by its Senate sponsor, President Pro tem Lois Court, D-Denver.

Senate Bill 20-065 would levy a $50 fine for a first offense, a $100 fine for a second offense and a $200 fine for each subsequent offense.

Court will vacate her seat this week after being diagnosed with an immune system disorder.

“This bill was her career-long passion,” said Rep. Dylan Roberts, D-Eagle, one of the House sponsors. “It’s unfortunate that she won’t be able to see it through.”

This will be Court's fourth try to pass a bill regulating cellphone usage in motor vehicles. Her last effort in 2019 cleared the Senate but died in the House Judiciary Committee. Senate Democrats last year objected to the high-dollar fines Court proposed; her 2020 version starts where the 2019 bill left off, with lower fines for violations. 

Under the bill, which is similar to the 2019 version, adults would no longer be permitted to use cell phones, except if they use a hands-free accessory. There are also exemptions for first responders, motorists who are in an emergency, motorists who are contacting law enforcement, or if the vehicle is in a shoulder lane or parked.

The bill’s authors found that “operating a motor vehicle is statistically the most dangerous and potentially fatal thing that people do on a daily basis.” There are two vehicle fatalities per day on average, and fatalities increased 24% between 2017 and 2018.

"No message is worth a life," Court said in an opinion piece for Colorado Politics in 2017. Court was successful in 2017 on the issue, with a law that increases the penalties for texting while driving, which is now a $300 fine and four points off the license.

In 2014, the Colorado State Patrol found that distracted driving was the largest contributor to causing crashes, attributable to nearly one in five fatal and injury crashes that year.

Marianne Goodland contributed to this report.

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