Distracted Driving

Distracted Driving
Photo by
C. Todd Lopez/Courtesy of U.S. Army

In the decade since Oregon banned the use of handheld cellphones to talk or text while driving an enormous number of things have changed in our cars and on our roads. As our cars and gadgets have become more complex the law has sometimes struggled to keep up.

Over the years, Oregon’s lawmakers and transportation officials have attempted to take on this challenge: tweaking the original 2009 Oregon distracted driving law to close unintended loopholes, increasing fines and strengthening enforcement to at least attempt to keep pace with the ever-changing world of technology.

What has not changed is the persistence of the problem. The last decade has taught us that stopping distracted driving is going to resemble the campaigns against DUII and smoking. Like those other issues, it must combine education with enforcement, and must take a long view. Changing deeply ingrained habits is a generations-long challenge.

Statistics compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration show distracted driving consistently is a factor in about 10% of fatal car crashes, around 18% of crashes in which someone is injured but no one dies, and around 15% of crashes that result in property damage only. These numbers have remained more or less constant throughout the 2010s.

Oregon’s distracted driving ban allows drivers 18 and over to operate a motor vehicle and use a phone provided they are using a hands-free device (such as a headset). Drivers under 18 are barred from using a cellphone while behind the wheel, even with a headset. All drivers, regardless of age, are forbidden to text while driving.

The law allows for “primary enforcement” for both calling and texting, meaning a police officer or other law enforcement official can pull you over solely for violating the distracted driving ban. A first offense is a Class B traffic violation, incurring a presumptive fine of $265 with a possible maximum fine of $1000 (when the law was originally passed distracted driving was classified as a Class D violation, and the fines were much lower). If the distracted driving is judged to have contributed to a crash ORS 811.507, Section 5b, changes a first offense to a Class A violation. That raises the presumptive fine to $440 and the maximum to $2000. Multiple convictions within a 10-year period cause the fines to rise significantly.

If you have been involved in a motor vehicle crash and believe distracted driving may have played a role, consulting Kaplan Law, LLC, is a prudent step to take. We can help you explore your options and decide whether distraction was a factor in the crash. This may allow you to receive compensation for injuries that cause wage loss, unpaid medical bills, and pain and suffering.

Resources

ORS 811.507: Operating motor vehicle while using mobile electronic device

Oregon Department of Transportation – Distracted Driving Information Page

La Grande Observer (April 2019): Oregon distracted driving fines highest in U.S.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: Distracted Driving

NHTSA: Crash Stats

Oregon State Police

Oregon Injury Lawyer Blog - Distracted Driving
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