On January 1, 2010, Oregon joined the growing number of states restricting the use of cell phones while driving. The 2009 legislature expanded Oregon’s cell phone driving restrictions in the wake of new data showing that distracted driving was a major problem on Oregon highways. In fact, texting while driving has been shown to be more dangerous that driving under the influence of intoxicants (DUII).
Prior to 2010, the cell phone restrictions applied only to persons under 18. The thought previously was that young drivers lacked the skill and experience to deal with the distraction of using a phone while driving. Now the thinking is that even adults are a risk when distracted by a cell phone.
Curiously, the new law appears to forbid dialing your phone, even if you have a hands free accessory. It allows one only to turn the device on or off or to activate functions, but no dialing. So, pull out your cell phone manuals and figure out how to use the voice activated dialing features of your device.
The new law forbids the use of a cell phone while operating a motor vehicle. There is an exception for a person who is using a hands free device that allows them to keep both hands on the steering wheel.
There are also exceptions for emergency personnel and for people who are using a device in the course and scope of their employment. The exception for employment related use is ambiguous. Do they mean just delivery drivers or does the exception apply to a lawyer who is talking to a client on his way to court? This will be an area for litigation in traffic court.
Also, Prosecutors may argue that in some circumstances where cell phone use results in observable bad driving, the incident should be charged as Careless Driving or the crime of Reckless Driving As a Portland Criminal Defense Lawyer, Mr. O’Rourke represents persons charged with violating ORS 811.507, Operating a Motor Vehicle While Using a Mobile Communication Device, ORS 811.140 Reckless Driving and ORS 811.135 Careless Driving.
By James F. O’Rourke Jr.
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