Oregon outlaws touching smartphone behind the wheel effective October 1
September 15, 2017 • KVAL News
SPRINGFIELD, Ore. - Starting next month, it will be illegal to use a phone for any purpose while driving.
And as one officer showed us, the new law will be a big change for Oregonians.
"There's one right there," Springfield Police Officer Tom Speldrich said.
It doesn't take him long to spot distracted drivers.
"He's shifting, looking back and forth, half the time. Right now half the time his eyes are on the road and half the time they're on his phone," Speldrich said as a man holding his phone drove down Gateway Street.
Speldrich knows what he's looking for.
"When you see one set of knuckles and then you see a chin that's down, maybe not looking up at the road," he said, "that keys me in to look a little bit closer."
Under current Oregon law, you can use your phone while driving - just not for texting or calling.
"If it's something that's not two-way communication, it's allowed by law," Speldrich said. "But we know, common sense tells us it's not any safer to check your bank statement than it is to be texting while you're driving down the road."
Under the new law, it will all be illegal.
Starting Oct. 1, drivers cannot use or even hold an electronic device.
"Ultimately it is going to lead to our roadways being safer as drivers change their habits and put their phones away while they are driving," Speldrich said. "Distracted drivers run red lights, they sit through green lights, they speed, they drive too slow, they run the whole gamut of traffic safety code."
"It's like impaired driving. I mean you do enough times, those are only the times you get caught, you do it enough times and you're going to wipe somebody out," Speldrich said.
He knows just as well as anyone it's going to be a tough habit for drivers to break.
But he says hopefully it does the trick.
The Fine Print
Oregon DOT says there are some cases where the new law does NOT apply.
• When using hands-free or built-in devices, if you are 18 years of age or older.
• Use of a single touch or swipe to activate or deactivate the device.
• When parked safely, i.e., stopped in a designated parking spot. However, it is NOT legal to use the device when stopped at a stop light, stop sign, in traffic, etc.
• While providing or summoning medical help and no one else is available to make the call.
• To truck or bus drivers following the federal rules for CDL holders.
• When using a two-way radio if you are a CB user, school bus driver, utility truck driver in scope of employment.
• If you are a HAM radio operator age 18 years or older.
The law also updates violations and fines.
• A first offense that doesn’t contribute to a crash is a Class B violation with a maximum fine of $1,000.
• A second offense, or if the first offense contributes to a crash, is Class A violation with a maximum fine of $2,500.
• A third offense in 10 years is a Class B misdemeanor and could result in a maximum fine of $2,500 fine and could be 6 months in jail.
Beginning January 1, 2018, a court may suspend the fine for first-time offenders if the offense does not contribute to a crash; if the driver completes an approved distracted driving avoidance class; and shows proof to the court, all within four months.
Only the fine can be suspended. The violation will remain on a driver's record.
Video and Story by KVAL News
Oregon House Bill 2597 -> https://www.scribd.com/document/359000922/HB2597