Stiffer fines, potential jail time under new distracted driving law

Distracted driving law takes effect Sunday

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Starting this weekend, it will be easier for Oregon authorities to pull you over and ticket you for using your phone while driving.

On Sunday, the state’s new distracted driving law takes effect.

Passed by lawmakers earlier this year, the new law makes it illegal to hold electronic devices while driving. That includes not only cellphones, but devices like tablets and GPS, too. Drivers can still use their phones while driving, so long as they’re not holding them. Only a single touch or swipe to activate or deactivate the device is allowed, according to the law.

“They can do pretty much anything they have normally been doing. They just can’t have an electronic device in their hand,” said Jeremy Shaw, a traffic officer with the Beaverton Police Department. “We’re hoping that this will have a direct effect on the number of crashes that we end up going to.”

Background: What you need to know about Oregon's new distracted driving cellphone law

Bluetooth devices and headphones are still allowed under the law.

“You can use it on speakerphone in a mount in your car or on your seat or something like that,” pointed out Shaw. “As long as it’s not in your hand. That’s the main thing.” 

Drivers can still listen to music and use GPS, just as long as the device is being used “hands free.” Holding your phone isn’t allowed at a stop sign or stoplight either. Drivers must exit traffic and legally park in order to hold their devices.

The new law brings stiffer penalties, too. A first-time distracted driving offense could bring a fine of $260.

Starting in January, that fine could be waived for first time offenders if the driver completes a distracted driving avoidance course within four months. The violation would still remain on the driver’s record, though.

A second-time offense could bring a fine of $435. If a driver is ticketed for a third time within ten years, the offense counts as a misdemeanor and carries a minimum fine of $2,000. Repeat offenders could face potential jail time, too.

“I kind of like it. That’s what it’s all about, being safe on the road,” said driver Jay Ong. “You don’t want to hurt anyone just to answer a simple text.”

Ong added that his teenage daughter was beginning to learn how to drive, too.

“The less amount of distractions, the way better,” he said.

“[Lawmakers] want to get devices out of people’s hands,” said Shaw. “Hopefully we will have less of that rear-end crash type thing that we all see, we all get stuck in traffic with, and we all get frustrated with.”

© 2017 KGW-TV


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