April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month — and Coloradans have yet to change behavior behind the wheel

News Release

March 29, 2023 - Statewide News - Three out of four Colorado drivers use their phones while driving

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Statewide — Responding to a text message, turning to talk to a passenger, or reaching for a french fry may seem harmless, but this dangerous driving behavior accounted for 65 fatal crashes across Colorado in 2021. April marks Distracted Driving Awareness Month, and CDOT is urging Coloradans to drop distractions behind the wheel and focus on the road instead.

Among the 65 fatal distracted driving crashes in 2021, the leading cause of distractions in those incidents were:

  • Other passengers (18%)
  • Talking, listening, dialing or other activities on a cell phone (18%)
  • Inattention (15%)
  • An outside person, object or event (12%)
  • Eating food or drinking beverages (8%)
A data graph that shows the top distractions reported during fatal crashes. On the left side, copy reads the type of distraction. The right side copy reads the percentage of participants.
A data graph that shows the top distractions reported during fatal crashes. On the left side, copy reads the type of distraction. The right side copy reads the percentage of participants.

“Driving is a group activity and other motorists and pedestrians are counting on you to make good choices behind the wheel,” stated Col. Matthew Packard, chief of the Colorado State Patrol. “As you close a door getting into a vehicle, regroup and take responsibility for the choices you make when you’re on the road. If your phone is a temptation, put it out of reach before you start the car. Eat before you drive. And, focus on the most important task at hand at that moment - driving."

A 2022 driver behavior survey conducted by CDOT found that the distraction that drivers engaged in most often was eating and drinking. The full list of distractions that drivers engaged in most often are:

  • Ate food/drank beverage (36%)
  • Selecting entertainment on a cell phone, CD player, radio or other device (21%)
  • Talking on a hands-free phone (15%)
  • Reading a text or social media message on a phone (7%)

In CDOT’s survey, an alarming three out of four Colorado drivers reported using their cell phones (hands-free or handheld) while driving a moving vehicle. Male respondents were more likely to say they used their phone while driving on the highway (71%) than female respondents (60%).

“Looking away for just a few seconds can be deadly,” said Darrell Lingk, director of CDOT’s highway safety office. “You can’t predict other drivers’ behavior or rely on luck. When you are behind the wheel you have to be ready to respond to a sudden situation. Seconds matter. So put the phone away and set that playlist before you hit the road.”

Amid an increase in younger drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2022, CDOT recently launched its distracted driving contest, which invites high school students across the state to create a compelling public service announcement about distracted driving. The most creative PSAs will win $5,000 in prizes. This effort is part of a grant CDOT received from the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) and General Motors to decrease distracted driving-related fatalities and injuries. CDOT will announce the contest winners during Distracted Driving Awareness Month.

Person standing with video camera; back light shining through. Copy reads, Video Contest Alert! How do you combat distracted driving? Submit your short PSA telling us how you prevent distracted driving for a chance to win up to $5,000 in prizes.
Announcement for CDOT’s PSA video contest to prevent distracted driving available for high-school students.

Turn on Do Not Disturb While Driving

Only 29% of behavior survey respondents used the “Do Not Disturb” feature on their phones rarely or more often, while 34% never used the feature, and 37% were unaware of the feature. CDOT recommends turning on Do Not Disturb while driving on your phone to avoid the temptation. On Apple devices:

  1. Go to Settings
  2. Within Settings, go to Focus
  3. Click on Driving
  4. On the Driving page, scroll down to “Turn on Automatically” to have Do Not Disturb While Driving automatically activate or activate when connected to car Bluetooth

Distracted Driving Law

Adult drivers in Colorado 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. 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.

About GHSA

The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) is a nonprofit association representing the highway safety offices of states, territories, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. GHSA provides leadership and representation for the states and territories to improve traffic safety, influence national policy, enhance program management and promote best practices. Its members are appointed by their Governors to administer federal and state highway safety funds and implement state highway safety plans. Visit ghsa.org for more information or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.