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New Oregon distracted driving laws now in effect

Updated cell phone regulations are more restrictive with serious consequences

Sam Dunaway | News Editor

Oct. 1 marked the beginning of the updated 2017 distracted driving laws in Oregon.

Distracted driving is defined by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration as, “anything that takes your attention away from the task of safe driving.” This includes talking or texting on a cell phone, eating, adjusting the stereo — anything that distracts from driving in a safe and responsible manner.

According to oregon.gov, there were 917 crashes from 2011 to 2015 in Oregon caused by a driver using a cell phone.

The previous 2015 cell phone law prohibited texting and talking while driving without using a hands-free device, but drivers could use cell phones for other purposes.

The 2017 House Bill 2597 prohibits any sort of cell phone use while driving. It is even illegal to drive while holding a mobile electronic device, including cell phones, tablets and GPS trackers. This law is in effect whenever the vehicle is being operated. For example, drivers may not use electronic devices while stopped at a stop light. However, if drivers are pulled off on the side of the road or parked in a designated parking space, cell phone use is permitted.

Talking on a cell phone is only allowed when a hands-free device is being used and the driver is over the age of 18.

The law does not apply when a driver activates or deactivates a function of the cell phone. This may include pressing the “end” button on a call, or swiping the lock screen to unlock the phone.

Violations for cell phone use have also been updated from 2015; a driver’s first offense that doesn’t contribute to an accident is a Class B violation with a $1,000 maximum fine, a second offense is a Class A violation with a maximum fine of $2,500 and a driver with three offenses within a 10-year period could face a maximum fine of $2,500 and six months in jail.

Driving distracted is a serious offense. Put down the cell phone and, as oregon.gov’s Drive Healthy Campaign states, “Hands on the wheel. Mind on the road.”

Contact the author at journalnews@wou.edu