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Tougher Penalties For Drivers Who Text Behind The Wheel

By Shaun Boyd

DENVER (CBS4)- A new law cracks down on people texting while driving.

As of Thursday, the penalty jumps from $50 and one point on your license to $300 and four points on your license.

Gov. John Hickenlooper (credit: CBS)

Gov. John Hickenlooper signed the bill into law outside the Denver Police District 3 Station surrounded by bill supporters, including the Douglas County Harley Owners Group.

They fought for the bill's passage after the deaths of two close friends. Brian and Jacquie Lehner were killed by a woman drunk, high and texting while driving.

Brian & Jacquie Lehner (credit CORD)

"We wanted to do something in memory of our friends, Brian and Jacquie Lehner, so that their lives weren't a loss for no reason," says Susan Dane.

The Lehners were longtime members of the motorcycle group.

(credit: CBS)

"They're smiling at us right now. I can feel it," Dane told CBS4 Political Specialist Shaun Boyd.

The bill's sponsors, Sen. Lois Court and Rep. Jovan Melton, say the bill wouldn't have passed without the group's testimony.

Sen. Lois Court and Rep. Jovan Melton (credit: CBS)

"This bill was dead on arrival at the Senate State Affairs Committee until these people came up and said, Pass this bill! Our friends are getting killed!" Court said at the bill signing ceremony.

She called distracted driving an "epidemic" and said, "No message is worth a life."

(credit: CBS)

The Colorado Department of Transportation says nearly a quarter of all drivers in the state admit to texting while driving.

"It's really important people understand how dangerous this is," Melton says, "as smart phones get smarter they're able to do more and that's why we have to keep our statutes ahead of the game."

Jackie And Brian Lehner
Brian and Jacquie Lehner (credit: Ponderosa Valley Funeral Home)

Dane hopes the law will save the lives of others like the Lehners,"I don't think people understand and realize how quickly, when they're distracted, something can happen and how permanently that can change people's lives. We're going to continue working on this and continue make the roads safer for everybody."

Court says she hopes the law raises awareness so tickets aren't necessary.

Shaun Boyd is CBS4's political specialist. She's a veteran reporter with more than 25 years of experience. Follow her on Twitter @cbs4shaun.

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