Colo. Gov. Inks Legislation Strengthening Penalties Against Uninsured Motorists; Signs Other Bills

May 21, 2004

Colorado Governor Bill Ownes signed several bills on Friday, including legislation strengthening the penalties against uninsured motorists in Colorado.

“The majority of Coloradans who pay auto insurance premiums are being victimized by those who don’t. Today, we are taking steps to end that free ride,” Owens said.

HB-1193, sponsored by Rep. Rob Fairbank (R-Littleton) and Sen. Mark Hillman (R-Burlington), increases the fines for not having auto insurance and also provides for the suspension of the driver’s license if there have been previous violations. The state’s Uninsured Motorist Database also will be improved by increasing the reporting requirements for insurance companies.

Owens also signed legislation lowering Colorado’s blood alcohol content (BAC) for drunk driving from a .10 to .08.

“Lowering the legal threshold for driving under the influence is an
important safety measure and something that I have long supported. This will combine with other ongoing enforcement and education programs to save lives,” Owens said.

HB-1021, sponsored by Rep. Bob Briggs (R-Westminster) and Sen. Andy McElhany (R-Colorado Springs), takes effect July 1, 2004. Under the new law, intoxicated drivers who are arrested and have a .08 BAC or higher will be charged with driving under the influence (DUI), Colorado’s more serious alcohol-related driving offense.

Owens also announced that with the approaching Memorial Day weekend, Colorado would again be substantially increasing enforcement to arrest drunk drivers and to emphasize the importance of buckling up.

“The 2003 Memorial Day weekend set a record in Colorado when there no alcohol-related traffic deaths on any of our highways. With support from citizens and dedicated law enforcement officers, we hope to see this record repeated again this year,” Owens commented.

DUI Checkpoint Colorado gets underway May 21 with three sobriety
checkpoints in Pueblo. The program will conduct 19 more sobriety checkpoints over the Memorial Day weekend. These checkpoints will be in addition to DUI patrols and DUI saturation patrols by agencies statewide during the holiday weekend.

“Again this summer, the heat is on drinking drivers. From Memorial Day through Labor Day, law enforcement agencies plan more than 100 sobriety checkpoints on summer weekends,” Owens said.

Colorado is also joining a nationwide campaign, “Click It or Ticket” to increase seat belt use. Starting Monday, May 24, the Colorado State Patrol and 101 police and sheriff’s departments begin two weeks of intensive seat belt enforcement. Officers will target speeding and aggressive drivers. Those who are stopped and not buckled up will receive seat belt tickets. Drivers with passengers under age 16 who are not properly restrained, as required by Colorado’s child passenger safety law, will be stopped and ticketed.

“The State Patrol’s goal is to significantly reduce traffic fatalities,” said CSP Chief Mark Trostel. “As part of our effort called Colorado Target Zero, we will put every uniformed officer on the road from May 24 to 31 to increase traffic enforcement. This unprecedented commitment means more than 1,200 State Patrol personnel and local law enforcement officers will be on the road next week, more than double the number of officers on the road during the 2003 Memorial Day weekend.”

Last year seven people died in traffic crashes on Colorado highways during the Memorial Day weekend. Six of the victims were drivers and passengers and one was not buckled up. One fatality was a pedestrian.

The 2003 Memorial Day weekend marked the first time since records have been kept that alcohol was not found to be a factor in any of the highway deaths. Agencies made 450 DUI arrests during the Memorial Day weekend.

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