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Distracted Driving and Cell Phone Use

Adult drivers.  Colorado law permits regular cell phone use for voice calls.  Headphones may be worn in one ear for this purpose.  However, adult drivers are prohibited from manual data entry and transmission on a cell phone (i.e., to send a text message or browse the internet) while behind the wheel. 

Minor drivers.  Any driver under 18 years of age is prohibited from using a cell phone while driving.  The prohibition includes phone calls, text messaging, or similar forms of manual data entry and transmission.  See the Minor License subsection for more information about rules related to minor drivers. 

Exceptions.  Exceptions to the law are provided under specified circumstances.  Drivers, regardless of age, may use a wireless device for phone calls or sending or receiving text messages either to contact a public safety entity or during an emergency.  An emergency is defined as any situation in which the following may occur:

  • a person has reason to fear for his or her life or safety, or believes that a criminal act may be perpetrated against him or her or against another person;
  • reporting of a fire, serious traffic accident, serious road hazard, or a medical or hazardous materials emergency; or
  • reporting of a person who is driving in a reckless, careless, or unsafe manner.

Penalties.  The table below lists penalties assessed for violating state laws pertaining to cell phone use and text messaging while driving and indicates fines for both initial and subsequent offenses.  In addition to fines set in statute, offenders are assessed a surcharge credited to the Victims and Witnesses Assistance and Law Enforcement Fund and the Crime Victim Compensation Fund. 


Penalties for Improper Cell Phone Use While Driving





Minor Drivers

(all cell phone use)

Initial Violation

Class A Traffic Infraction



Subsequent Violation



Adult Drivers

(text messaging)

Initial Violation

Class 2 Misdemeanor Traffic Offense



Subsequent Violation

Bodily Injury or Proximate Cause Of Death to Another, Class 1 Misdemeanor


Up to one year imprisonment,
$1,000 fine,
or both.

Source:  Section 42-4-239, C.R.S.

Enforcement.  Distracted driving violations are primary offenses.  Current law states that a law enforcement officer must see the use of the mobile device to transmit data and that the driver was operating the motor vehicle in a careless or imprudent manner in order to issue a citation.

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