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

A traffic jam on westbound I-70 in Colorado.

After dumping the idea three times, Colorado lawmakers will get a fourth shot to mull fining drivers who use hand-held phones in their cars.

State 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. Three similar measures from its Senate sponsor, President Pro tempore Lois Court, D-Denver, failed.

Court will leave 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 measure’s House sponsors. “It’s unfortunate that she won’t be able to see it through.”

The last effort to ban hand-held phones in cars 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 in parked cars.

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 in Colorado, 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 with a law that increases the penalties for texting while driving, now a $300 fine.

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

Reporter Marianne Goodland contributed to this report.

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