Talk about distractions

In the midst of the worst state financial crisis in recent memory — and hard-fought fights over where to cut state services — some members of the state Legislature think it’s entirely appropriate to add another burden to the responsibilities of state and local law enforcement.

By a vote of 39-25, the Colorado House last week approved legislation that would prohibit drivers in this state from using cell phones while they are behind the wheel, unless they have hands-free headsets for their cell phones. Motorists under the age of 18 would be banned from using any kind of cell phones while driving.

Unlike so much that has occurred at the state Capitol this year, the vote on House Bill 1094 wasn’t a strictly partisan issue, however. Six Republicans voted for the bill and five Democrats voted against it.

We hope other lawmakers of both parties will find the gumption to vote against the bill when it reaches the Senate this week.

It’s not that we think that there is no safety threat in driving and talking on cell phones. Anybody who drives regularly has seen accidents, or collisions barely avoided, that were the result of someone being distracted while talking on a cell phone.

But cell phones also offer safety benefits — whether it be a motorist who calls authorities to report an accident or unsafe conditions, or someone reporting a threat from another driver.

Sometimes, they simply provide comfort to family members, letting them know their loved ones out on the road are doing fine.

Furthermore, as we noted when this bill was introduced, although those who want to ban cell phones while driving like to equate the danger with drunken driving, there is really no comparison in the number or severity of accidents.

Equally important, police officers already have much to do without trying to figure out if motorists are using conventional cell phones while they drive. And those people who drive erratically while using their cell phones can already be stopped and ticketed for reckless or careless driving.

HB 1094 is little more than a distraction at a time when the Legislature has much more important issues on its plate.


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