Lawmakers vote down bill to ban cell phone use in cars


Rep. Jovan Melton, D-Aurora, speaks in support of his proposal to ban cell phone use in cars during a hearing Wednesday before the House Transportation and Energy Committee.

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DENVER — A few Democrats broke ranks and helped Republicans vote down a measure that would have seriously restricted cell phone use while driving, even after the bill sponsor moved to amend the bill several times to garner additional support.

The House Transportation and Energy Committee approved amendments allowing the use of apps while driving — GPS, for example — and exempting emergency workers before voting down House Bill 1283 altogether on a 6-7 vote.

Two Democrats, Reps. Tracy Kraft-Tharp of Westminster and Domenic Moreno of Commerce City, joined Republicans in voting against the bill, which was sponsored by Rep. Jovan Melton, R-Aurora.

Public safety experts testified that talking on the phone while driving, even if on a hands-free device, makes drivers 30 percent less attentive while behind the wheel.

And they pointed to studies showing as many as 11 people are killed by distracted drivers every day in the United States, with cell phones ranking at the top of the list of distractions.

Right now, Colorado law bans texting while driving but not talking or doing other things on a cell phone.

“Technically, I could be sitting in traffic doodling around with a different app trying to figure out what I’m going to make for dinner that night,” Melton said.

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