SALEM – As of Tuesday, Oregon drivers caught texting while driving or smoking with a child in the car will face stiff new fines.
The fine for using a cell phone without a hands-free device while driving has increased $50 this year to $160. A judge can also increase the fine to $500 in certain circumstances involving multiple offenses. The new law went into effect January 1.
During the 2013 session, the Oregon legislature passed a ban on smoking in a motor vehicle with a child under the age of 18. That law also took effect Jan. 1.
Background: Oregon bans smoking with kids in car
Smoking with kids in the car is a secondary offense. This means that police must pull a driver over for a primary offense first, such as speeding or having a taillight out, before a motorist can be charged with smoking with children present.
“The fine for an adult smoking in a car with a minor present is up to $250 for the first offense,” said Jennifer Eskridge of the Marion County Health Department. “The fine for a second offense is up to $500.”
Utah, California, Louisiana, Arkansas and Maine have similar laws, Eskridge said.
The Oregon Health Authority estimates that 50,000 Oregon families are exposed to second hand smoke in cars each year.
(KGW reporter Mark Hanrahan contributed to this report.)