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New cell phone law in effect

A new Colorado law, effective Dec. 1, bans drivers from specific cell phone usage while driving a motor vehicle.

All drivers under 18 are prohibited from using cell phones for talking, listening and texting while driving.

Drivers over 18 are permitted to talk, but are banned from using a cell phone for texting or other manual data entry or transmission while driving.

The Town of Pagosa Springs Police Department will “absolutely” enforce the law, said chief Jim Saunders, adding, “Obviously the reason for the law is very clear, and that’s crashing.”

Detective Rich Valdez of the Archuleta County Sheriff’s Department said the texting portion of the law will be “enforced to the strictest limit of the law” due to the danger of a driver putting their head down in order to text.

Valdez said enforcement relating to drivers under 18 talking on the phone will be more difficult due to the complication of determining a driver’s age, but that, as with any other new law, deputies will “enforce it the best that we can.”

Saunders said enforcement is a must to ensure added safety on the roads, especially after studies have shown cell phone use causes drivers to exhibit some of the same characteristics as drunk drivers.

Violation of the law ranks as a class A traffic infraction, with a mandatory $50 fine for a first offense and mandatory $100 fine for each subsequent offense.

The only exception to this legislation is use of a cell phone to contact public safety entities or during an emergency in which a driver fears for his or her life, believes a crime is about to be committed, or needs to report a fire, traffic collision, serious road hazard, medical issue or a reckless driver.

randi@pagosasun.com