A measure to increase the penalty for texting while driving passed its first test on Wednesday, though sponsors had to decrease the proposed fine.
After two weeks of negotiations, Senate Bill 27 was amended to increase the penalty for texting while driving to a $300 fine and four points against the violator’s driver’s license for first or subsequent offenses.
The current fine is $50 and one point for a first offense and a $100 fine and one point for a second or subsequent offense.
Sen. Lois Court, D-Denver, who is sponsoring the bill, agreed to come down off of her original proposal, which was a $500 fine for a first offense and a $750 fine for a second or subsequent offense.
“This proves that the system works,” Court said. “I’m very pleased that we’ve come to this agreement.”
The bill passed the Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee 4-1, with Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, casting the lone “no” vote. The bill heads to Senate Finance for consideration.
Court worked with Sen. Owen Hill, R-Colorado Springs, on reaching an agreement to ensure that the bill would pass out of committee.
“For those folks who say government is fundamentally broken, I think this is a perfect opportunity for us to pushback on that narrative,” Hill said.
The bill was also amended to model the state’s careless driving law in an effort to protect those who may be texting in their cars, but not necessarily creating a dangerous situation. Examples given were when someone is sitting at a red light, or an Uber driver who has pulled up to a location and is texting a passenger.
“What I agree with you completely on is texting in a dangerous way …” Hill said. “We need a mechanism for addressing that.”
Up until the amendment on Wednesday, the bill faced a precarious path in the Republican-controlled Senate. But lawmakers were motivated to compromise after hearing from people who lost friends and family to careless drivers who were texting while driving.
Colorado State Patrol pulled over 1,471 vehicles in 2016 for violating the texting while driving law.
“For you who lost your friends, we certainly are glad you are here, and it’s always a very difficult position to be in to talk about it,” said Sen. Vicki Marble, R-Fort Collins. “But you guys came forth, and we heard you.”