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Oregon bill would crack down on driver cellphone use

Expanding ban to include any electronic device use

SALEM, Ore. - A bill that expands the definition of using an electronic device while driving has bi-partisan support this legislative session.

House Bill 2597 expands speaking and texting on a cellphone to include using an electronic device in any manner, KGW reports. That would include use of social media, games and the Internet while driving.

A workshop and hearing on the bill was scheduled for Monday afternoon before the House Committee on the Judiciary.

The proposed changes to the law include the following:

  • “Mobile electronic device” means an electronic device that is not permanently installed in a motor vehicle.
  • “Mobile electronic device” includes but is not limited to a device capable of text messaging, voice communication, entertainment, navigation, accessing the Internet or producing electronic mail.
  • “Using a mobile electronic device” includes but is not limited to using a mobile electronic device for text messaging, voice communication, entertainment, navigation, accessing the Internet or producing electronic mail.
  • A person commits the offense of operating a motor vehicle while using a mobile [communication electronic device if the person, while operating a motor vehicle on a highway[,]:
  • Holds a mobile electronic device in the person’s hand; or
  • Uses a mobile [communication] electronic device for any purpose.

Exceptions would be made for medical or vehicular emergencies. The new rules would take effect July 1 or October 1.

A first offense would result in a Class B traffic violation, which has a presumptive fine of $260, a minimum of $130 and a maximum of $1,000. An offense that led to a wreck would be reason for Class A violation. A second offense within 10 years would be a Class A violation, with a presumptive fine of $435, a minimum of $220 and a maximum of $2,000.

The fines could be suspended if the driver completes a class on the dangers of distracted driving.

The changes have the support of the Oregon Association of Chiefs of Police and Oregon Department of Transportation director Matthew Garrett.

Bob Russell of the Oregon Trucking Association submitted a letter for Monday's hearing that supports overall safety on the highways, but he said truckers face special issues.

He pointed out federal regulations require logging devices whose use may violate the proposed changes.

Some truckers still use CB radios for safety reasons that require a driver to 'key the mic.' A spokesman for the Amateur Radio Emergency Service group expressed a similar concern for ham radio operators.

Russell added that modern truck navigation systems create safer conditions, but their operation may also violate the proposed law update.


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