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Correction: Cell phone bill heads for Senate vote

Posted by on June 17th, 2009 at 9:46 am

HB 2377, a bill sponsored by Rep. Carolyn Tomei that looks to strengthen laws against people who use mobile devices (texting or talking) while driving, has made it out of the Senate Rules Committee (where it was stuck last time we checked in) and is headed for a vote on the Senate floor.

Story continues below


Unfortunately, to get there, it has been made into a secondary offense. UPDATE: Actually, the amendment did not happen. I relied on reporting by The Oregonian and have now found out that the bill still makes it a primary offense.

The Oregonian incorrectly reported yesterday that the bill was amended in the Senate Rules Committee to make it a secondary offense (meaning a cop could not pull you over solely for phone use), but according to Rep. Tomei’s office, that amendment was submitted, but it was not considered before it moved out of committee.

The max fine for this offense would be $90. We’ll keep you posted on how the vote turns out.

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  • fredlf June 17, 2009 at 10:19 am

    Typical. The opposition whittles away until the legislation has no teeth and then they say “see, it doesn’t work.”

    There are too many people who want to drown gov’t in a bathtub in charge of the gov’t.

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  • Vance Longwell June 17, 2009 at 10:28 am

    Don’t like people exercising their freedom? Well then exercise yours and stay home. A Nanny State is not the solution. This bill is a joke.

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  • Kt June 17, 2009 at 10:40 am

    Way to pull its teeth, Committee.

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  • Oliver June 17, 2009 at 10:47 am

    Here Here,
    I’m also tired of the government telling me that I not allowed to:

    Enjoy a couple frosty cold ones while exercising my freedom to drive.

    Nail that beautiful 4 point that wanders through my neighbors yard every morning, just cuz Nanny Mcbureacrat thinks shooting guns in the city limits is somehow bad.

    Turn my dogs out every morning so they can go to the park and chase squirrels. I don’t want to go to the park, the dogs do, they like squirrels, I don’t. Either I’m free to own dogs or I’m not.

    Smoke dope down at the waterfront park. People are free to keep their kids home if they don’t want to see that.

    For a free country the government spends far too much time impinging upon mine, what is this, Germany?

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  • Bent Bloke June 17, 2009 at 10:55 am

    So, if this passes as-is, an officer could witness someone committing a violation, but could do nothing about it unless the person was also committing a primary offense? I would say “why even bother” if this weren’t at least a first step towards something that might actually benefit society.

    And Vance, if the regulation only improved the safety of the offender, then I would agree that this should be labeled a “Nanny State” rule, but since it affects the safety of all road users, it doesn’t deserve that label IMO.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) June 17, 2009 at 11:00 am

    “So, if this passes as-is, an officer could witness someone committing a violation, but could do nothing about it unless the person was also committing a primary offense?”


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  • RonC June 17, 2009 at 11:11 am

    On the other hand, can you imagine the following:

    “Excuse me (sir, madam), may I please see your license. Are you aware that you didn’t come to a complete stop at that stop sign, and that you were driving 5mph over the speed limit before that? And I saw you were talking on your cell phone at the same time. I’ll have to cite you for that as well.”

    It’s got some teeth. Just not as much as some would like. Unanticipated consequences of this law still scare me, like what if there are ‘conscientious’ people who pull over to answer their phones without first looking for adjacent cyclists, or those approaching from the rear. The cell phone right hook – no corner required. Hope I’m wrong.

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  • El Biciclero June 17, 2009 at 11:13 am

    “…if the regulation only improved the safety of the offender, then I would agree that this should be labeled a “Nanny State” rule…”

    E.g., seatbelt and helmet laws.

    “So, if this passes as-is, an officer could witness someone committing a violation, but could do nothing about it unless the person was also committing a primary offense?”

    The thing is, though, that drivers commit primary offenses all day long: rolling stops, squeezing yellow lights, speeding, right turn on red without stopping first, encroaching on crosswalks, driving in bike lanes, failure to signal–I see at least 20 such violations each way to and from work every day. Any officer that wanted to actually enforce these existing rules could now almost automatically add another $90 to the fine, since most drivers are also talking on their phones as they drive. Is an extra 90 bucks enough incentive to start enforcing existing rules? I don’t know.

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  • fredlf June 17, 2009 at 11:13 am

    Re: the Nanny State. I know it’s hard, but try to understand that’s what good for an individual may not be good for a group.
    The science on cell-phone use is abundantly clear. The vagaries of human cognition conspire to hide just how badly the cell-user is driving. Thus, it’s perfectly fine to curtail the “freedom” to talk on the phone while enjoying the privilege (not right) to drive a motor vehicle in order to help preserve the freedom of other road users to NOT BE KILLED OR MAIMED.
    Compromise like this is a necessary and desirable part of civil society. If you don’t want to be a part of society, feel free to leave.

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  • Brian June 17, 2009 at 11:40 am

    Nanny State. ha. You can’t even pump gas in this state. This is the mother of all Nanny States. One more practical rule is not going to change anyting.

    We would not need Nanny State rules if this was not a ‘Get Off Scott Free When you Run Someone Over State’.

    Driving is serious business, forcing people to do it responsibly is not Nanny State.

    I wish this bill had more teeth.

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  • beth h June 17, 2009 at 11:51 am

    Sadly, the only way to voluntarily “leave” society is to off yourself. Or to move someplace where EVERYone looks, acts and lives just like you.

    Either way, “civil” society apparently leaves some folks feeling quite stifled. I suppose that laws without real teeth are one by-product of this reality: “make this law, but don’t make it hurt.” This approach to policy-making is nothing new.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) June 17, 2009 at 1:49 pm

    Just want everyone to know that I have really botched my coverage of this.

    Turns out The Oregonian report I relied on initially to write this story had it wrong.

    I have heard from Rep. Tomei’s office that the bill has not been amended and that it is headed to Senate vote with the infraction being a PRIMARY OFFENSE.

    that’s great news for the bill (although it still includes several exceptions).

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  • Kt June 17, 2009 at 2:02 pm

    Urgh! Stupid Oregonian. Thanks for the update, JM.

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  • Disastronaut June 17, 2009 at 2:07 pm

    I’d have to say without a doubt that 90% of the near-misses and accidents I have been subjected to were at the hands of a driver talking on their cell phone. If their “inconvenience” of not being able to yack on the cell when they are driving means I get to spend less time in the hospital, then that’s just something they are going to have to learn live with.

    This bill is perfect but it’s a start.

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  • Disastronaut June 17, 2009 at 2:09 pm

    *isn’t perfect that is…

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  • Meghan H June 17, 2009 at 2:26 pm

    So, it outlaws talking on the cell while driving a motor vehicle. What about while riding a bike?

    I haven’t found it inconvenient to pull over and answer my cellphone if it rings while I’m biking — just wondering how this bill applies to cyclists’ actions (if at all.)

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  • Case June 17, 2009 at 3:27 pm

    That’s a whole other thing, if it comes out that this bill only applies to automobiles look out for the fierce anti-bike backlash, not to mention the ‘privileged cyclists’ argument. Oh geez.

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  • Rixtir June 17, 2009 at 3:35 pm

    If people are going to complain about “nanny states,’ they should at least bother to learn what the term means.

    That said, this bill is so watered down, with so many loopholes, it’s only real purpose is to forestall any real legislation.

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  • Ron June 17, 2009 at 7:08 pm


    Ah, yes, the stupid Oregonian. It is one of the many papers barely clinging on as readership drops, taking advertising dollars with it, in favor of online editors who are quite willing to take credit for producing information, so long as it’s correct. Just like the captain of a ship, the editor takes both credit and blame. With all due respect (and I mean that; I appreciate what JM does), the buck should have stopped with the mea culpa for not checking facts, no matter where they orignated. When JM wrote “I really botched…”, that was enough said (although, in the scheme of things, it wasn’t that big a botch).

    Happy Trails,
    Ron Georg

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  • wsbob June 17, 2009 at 9:31 pm

    I also think this bill will have a hard time passing. It struggles to get a grasp on the problem…driver manageable distractions…that many road users are routinely witness too, but doesn’t seem to have an effective way to do it nailed down in concept, language and on scene procedure.

    Still, since the senate now has a chance to consider and vote on the bill, their thoughts on the bill may be very interesting to hear.

    I think the provision in DUI statutes offer an interesting possibility for the cell phone/assorted other distractions: Where a driver is possibly DUI, if an officer can clearly and visibly discern that a road user is impaired, that can be enough to cite the road user and arrest them. (I’m just going by memory of the statute on DUI…if someone feels I’m wrong about what they say about this, a simple correction is welcome.)

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  • Barney June 17, 2009 at 10:26 pm

    I disagree heartily with the nanny state talk. The amount of drivers who make terrible choices and who also happen to be on their cell phones is reaching epidemic proportions. Don’t you want to share a road where drivers are actually legally required to pay more attention to the road than their BFF on the phone?

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  • mmann June 17, 2009 at 10:43 pm

    Barney (# 20)
    I’m with you. Everytime this topic comes up the cell phone apologists come out with all kinds of reasons why making it illegal is a bad idea. Come on. It’s dangerous, people know it’s dangerous, and they keep doing it. The best thing that could happen is when your insurance company sees the cell phone ticket they jack your rates – that’s where the “teeth’ in this law will have some bite.

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  • jered June 18, 2009 at 11:20 am

    After 12 years in Oregon I have observed that Oregonians in general have a difficult driving. Freeway merging seems to be a lost art, right of way has been forgotten, to make a left hand turn you don’t need to veer right, left turns from the middle land on MLK are not acceptable… etc. Put a cell phone in their hands and it is pure chaos. Phones and driving just don’t work. Bikes and phones don’t work either (I’ve been guilty on both counts…ick).

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  • jami June 23, 2009 at 8:43 pm

    this would be great. my scariest near-miss in a decade of biking, worse by far than when i actually got hit, was two months ago when a driver just blew right through her stop sign on a residential street.

    couldn’t tell if she didn’t see it or didn’t care, cause she never even looked my way. she was too busy yakking on her cell phone. had i been ten feet ahead, i’d be dead.

    and she’d have a $242 ticket! people like her should be grateful to get a $90 warning before they get hit with the really hard consequences for killing someone.

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