Hold the phone. Did Colorado just make it legal to text and drive?

Paige Butler, 15, tries to make a phone call while navigating an obstacle course

From the Daily Camera

The electronic signs above Colorado highways offer a warning to drivers who reach for their cellphones: “New texting law fines increased to $300.”

What it doesn’t mention: Texting while driving is now legal in Colorado as long as it isn’t done in “a careless or imprudent manner.”

The little-noticed provision softening the state’s standard is part of a new law that increased the penalties for a texting while driving carelessly citation from $50 to $300 and from one to four points on a driver’s license.

Before now, any text messaging or manual data entry by a motorist was prohibited. “The simple fact is that if you are texting while driving but not being careless, it’s no longer illegal,” said Tim Lane at the Colorado District Attorneys’ Council.

The weaker standard comes even as Colorado officials warn about an “epidemic of distracted driving” and other states are moving to toughen their laws to discourage cellphone use by motorists.

Maile Gray, the executive director of Drive Smart Colorado, a traffic safety education organization, hopes the increased fine and additional points on a license for first-time offenses will help curb texting while driving.

But she said she is concerned Colorado is sending the wrong message, calling the new standard “a problem.”

“What I find is most people just think they aren’t going to get caught, so they continue to (text) — and for the most part, they are right,” she said.

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