Oregon lawmakers approve new rules limiting cellphone use while driving

New hands-free law close to passing in Oregon

PORTLAND, Ore. -- You may need to invest in a new hands-free set-up for your car.

Oregon lawmakers passed a new strict hands-free law that won't allow drivers to touch their phones, or any other mobile electronic device, while behind the wheel. 

The Oregon Senate voted 21-8 on House Bill 2597 Thursday. The bill now goes to the governor's desk for her signature.

This law will close a huge loophole, making it easier to convict someone of distracted driving. Oregon police say too many distracted driving cases are dismissed in court because the way the law is written now, cops have to actually see your mouth moving into the phone, or fingers actively texting to issue a citation.

"You need a holder or something, I'm guessing you can't have it be in your hands, you can't be actively using your phone," said Mike Colman, a PSU student, and he's right.

This new law means there's no holding, no scrolling, no fiddling, other than a quick, one-touch motion to turn something that's not permanently installed in your car on, off, or answer or hang up a call. Drivers won't be able to keep their devices sitting on their laps.

"I've done it, I've done it a lot of times, being with my cellphone, driving," said Erick Berez of Portland. "When I get lost I pull out the cellphone and get the maps for driving, it's dangerous, that is true."

The new law is strict, but many people support it.

"If you minimize that, it's going to be beneficial. Keep people driving, that's what they should be doing," said Shawn Gunderson.

Jamie Smothers agrees, saying, "I agree it's a good idea, We have daughters so we don't want them looking at their phones while driving, touching it, nothing. It's a danger."

No longer can you use the excuse you're using your device for work, unless  you're a police officer, firefighter, EMT, utility worker or anyone making emergency calls to 911. The bill says two-way radios can only be used by school bus operators during work, utility or forest products workers.

"That's just too severe, that's just too severe," said Osman Kahn. "For people with older generation vehicles? They're going to be around, they're not going to have the systems to integrate them, what do they do?"

Busted once, you can take a distracted driver course to get it off your record. Busted twice in ten years, it's a max fine of $2,000. A third time, it'll be a minimum fine of $2,000 and possibly jail time.

"It definitely would get the point across if you got the fine, but that's a little extreme. That is a lot of money, I don't know how many people would be able to pay that," Smothers said.

Washington just passed the same law earlier this year.

People working for ride-sharing services like Lyft and Uber who rely on their phones and maps to make money must abide by the law. Now, just like everyone else, they'll have to fully pull over and put the car in park to do any more than quickly one-touch their screen -- or risk that big fine.

If you are stopped at a red light, or in gridlock, you won't be safe from the fine.

© 2017 KGW-TV


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