CDOT: More than 15,000 Colorado crashes involved distracted drivers last year

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A driver uses a phone while behind the wheel of a car on April 30, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

DENVER (KDVR) — New data from the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) show 15,143 crashes statewide in 2019 involved distracted drivers. The crashes resulted in 4,361 injuries and 28 deaths.

Additionally, CDOT said that in its 2020 driver behavior survey, 92% of respondents admitted to driving distracted within the last week.

“The most common distractions included eating or drinking, selecting entertainment on a device, talking on a hands-free cell phone and reading or sending a message on a cell phone,” CDOT said in a statement issued Thursday.

Colorado law allows adult drivers to talk on a cellphone while driving. However, manual data entry on a cellphone — like texting and using the internet — is prohibited.

Drivers under the age of 18 cannot use a cellphone at all while behind the wheel, except through a wireless device.

All drivers are allowed to text and make calls through a wireless device such as Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.

In Colorado, someone caught driving while distracted faces four points on their license and a $300 fine for an initial violation. Subsequent violations are an additional four points as well as up to one year imprisonment, a $1,000 fine or both.

This year, October is the National Safety Council’s Distracted Driving Awareness Month. While it typically takes place in April, it was rescheduled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Distracted driving continues to be a prevalent issue on Colorado roads, but is easy to fix,” said Darrell Lingk, CDOT’s director of the Office of Transportation Safety. “Every time you are tempted to reach for your phone or take your eyes off the road, stop and think about the lives at risk and make a safer decision.” 

CDOT recommended taking the following precautions to avoid driving while distracted:

  • Turn your phone to “Do Not Disturb” mode before you start moving to minimize distractions.
  • If you have a passenger, assign them to be your “designated texter” to respond to calls or messages while on the move.
  • Plan stops along your route to pull over and park your car to safely enjoy a snack, stay hydrated and check your cellphone notifications.
  • Select your entertainment settings and GPS options before you start your car so you don’t have to worry about making changes while in motion.
  • Enjoy a break from multitasking and use your drive time to enjoy Colorado’s natural beauty – you just might notice something you’ve never seen before!

Visit CDOT’s website for more information on distracted driving in Colorado.

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