A bill to ban talking on cell phones while driving failed in the House Transportation Committee on Wednesday. Two Democrats joined Republicans in defeating the measure.
The hearing was emotional at times and lawmakers were brought to tears after Shelly Forney from Fort Collins testified about her 9 year old daughter Erica’s death. Erica was biking near her home when a woman talking on her cell phone hit her with her car.
“This driver didn’t even know she hit her, she just felt a bump. She didn’t use her brakes and didn’t know what had happened. We learned from investigators this happened because she was finishing a phone call and had no idea the car had drifted into the bike lane where my daughter was,” said Forney.
House bill 1225 would have fined people $100 for talking on cell phones in school and construction zones. Fines would raise for a second offense and would also be issued if talking on a cell phone caused an accident. Drivers could use hands free devices.
“Some of the stories broke my heart and terrified me because I’m guilty of distracted driving,” said Representative Dominick Moreno (D- Commerce City).
But Moreno was one of two Democrats voting against the bill questioning whether it was substantive enough to make a difference.
“I’m concerned that it’s only a primary offense in school and construction zones, that the penalties don’ go far enough.”
No Republicans on the committee supported the bill. Representative Polly Lawrence (R-Roxborough Park) worries it wouldn’t solve the problem.
“There are lots of things that are distractions, kids screaming, a coke spilling, changing the radio station. I don’t quite understand why we’re just focusing on the cell phone,” said Lawrence.
But others – including Representative Diane Mitsch Bush (D-Steamboat Springs) say while not perfect, it’s a step in the right direction.
“This bill may save one or two lives, but even if it’s one life, that’s immeasurable.”
A similar proposal failed in the statehouse five years ago. The bill was eventually watered down to a ban on text messaging while driving. Currently 12 states require drivers to use hands free devices.