Colorado could become more friendly for hands-free talking under a proposed tweak to state traffic law.
The bill would specifically legalize the use of one-ear headsets by drivers, if connected to a mobile phone.
Current Colorado law bans the use of “earphones” behind the wheel, which is defined as “any headset, radio, tape player, or other similar device which provides the listener with radio programs, music, or other recorded information through a device attached to the head and which covers all of or a portion of the ears.”
While that definition does not specifically cover phone calls, it leaves enough ambiguity in law that a small group of House Democrats wants to clear it up.
HB 1207 would add an exception to the definition of “earphones” in state law, to exempt: “a headset that only covers all or a 10 portion of one ear and that is connected to a wireless, hand-held telephone.”
The house transportation committee unanimously passed the bill on Thursday morning.
Colorado law does not specifically address the issue of hands-free phone use versus calls made with a handset held to the driver’s head. Under Colorado law, adults are allowed to engage in phone calls behind the wheel, while minors are not.
Numerous scientific studies conclude that hands-free talking is not significantly safer for drivers than talking with the phone held to the ear.
More important than tying up a hand is the fact that engaging in a phone conversation ties up the brain, splitting a driver’s attention between the call and the road and using a significant chunk of the brains cognitive capacity when it would be better applied to the task of driving.
In 2013, Colorado police officers reported that 1,311 crashes were caused at least in part by distraction due to a cell phone, roughly the same number caused by distractions from passengers actually in the cars that crashed.
That statistic does not differentiate between the use of a phone for talking versus texting. Texting behind the wheel is illegal for drivers of all ages in Colorado.