Starting on October 1, 2017, Oregon’s new distracted driving law will go into effect. According to The Oregonian, the law prohibits drivers from using their phone or any mobile electronic device from any function that requires the driver to hold or touch the device. Prior to this law, Oregon statute contained a loophole that banned drivers from texting and talking on a phone while driving, but did not address using other functions of a phone. This law is designed to crack down on using navigation applications, scrolling through social media, checking email and playing games on a mobile device while driving.
Under the new law, drivers will be limited to a single swipe or touch of their phone to activate or deactivate one of the phone’s functions. Individuals who are 17 or younger will not be permitted to use mobile devices while driving, even with a hands-free function.
Drivers can continue to use map and music applications under the new law, but should keep both hands on the wheel while using them. That means that if you need to type in an address or search for a new music station, you will need to pull over or park to do so.
The law does apply to when drivers are stopped at a red light or train crossing. In these situations, drivers must maintain hands-free use of their phones.
If there is an emergency situation, drivers may call 911 if no one else in the car is able to do so.
First-time violators of Oregon’s new distracted driving law will be fined a minimum of $260 and up to $1,000. After a second offense, or if the first offense contributes to a crash, drivers will be fined at least $435. A third violation within 10 years could result in six months in jail and a fine of up to $2,500. First-time offenders will have the opportunity to waive the fine in exchange for completing a distracted driving avoidance class but the violation will remain on the driver’s record.
Taking your eyes off the road for just a few seconds can have serious consequences. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in the time it takes to send or read one text message, a car traveling at 55 miles per hour will cross the length of an entire football field.
An average of 11 people die in distracted driving crashes every year and more than 2,800 people are injured because of distracted driving in Oregon alone, according to The Oregon Department of Transportation.