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Oregon Senate prez wants distracted driving penalties on par with drunk driving

Posted by on December 16th, 2016 at 12:02 pm

Distracted driver being distracted.jpg

Stop it. You’re drunk.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

The Oregon Department of Transportation has been beating a steady drum all year about one very important part of their approach to traffic safety: distracted driving. Now it looks like the Oregon legislature has their back and we could see a major change to the law in the 2017 session.

According to a story in the Salem Statesmen-Journal Wednesday, Oregon Senate President Peter Courtney (D-Salem) wants to significantly ramp up the legal consequences for people caught driving while texting, talking, or using social media apps. In fact, he’s so concerned about the threat of distractions that he wants to expand Oregon’s existing cell phone law (ORS 811.507) and make the penalties commensurate with driving under the influence.

From the Statesmen-Journal:

Courtney said the pervasiveness of distracted drivers led him to believe a harsher punishment is needed.

“You drive anywhere… you can see it,” he said.

Injuries and crashes caused by distracting driving have skyrocketed, he added, but many people don’t take its illegalness seriously.

“It’s just as deadly as drunk driving,” Courtney said.

Courtney testified Wednesday in front of the Joint Senate and House Judiciary Committees. We contacted his office and got a copy of his testimony (PDF) and the current bill proposal, LC 1105 (PDF).

In addition to much stronger consequences, the bill would alter the definition of what type of device and behaviors are prohibited.

Here’s the old definition:

“Mobile communication device” means a text messaging device or a wireless, two-way communication device designed to receive and transmit voice or text communication.”

And the new one:

“Mobile electronic device” means an electronic device that is not permanently installed in a motor vehicle.

The law would add that use of the device includes (but is not limited to), “text messaging, voice communication, entertainment, navigation, accessing the Internet or producing electronic mail.” You would also be violating the law simply if you held the device in your hand “for any purpose”. This is much stronger than the existing that is only triggered when someone is having a two-way communication and allows people to turn a device on or off.

The current law comes with a maximum fine of $500. Courtney thinks that’s not sending a strong enough message. He wants to increase that max fine to $6,250 or one year in prison or both. And it wouldn’t stop there.

courtney

If someone was stopped three or more times within a 10-year period they could face a maximum of five years in prison and up to $125,000 in fines. The proposed bill would also trigger felony charges on someone’s third conviction. There would be a minimum fine of $1,000 for a first-time conviction and $1,500 for the second conviction. A third conviction would be treated as a felony and would come with a $2,000 minimum fine unless the person was given a prison sentence.

In addition to harsher criminal and financial penalties, the bill would wipe away many of the exceptions for cell phone use while driving that the current law allows. If passed, the new law would only allow use of a mobile device under three basic circumstances: calling for emergency medical assistance; operating an ambulance or emergency vehicle; or if using a hands-free accessory. The existing law had several more exceptions including ones for police officers, tow truck drivers, amateur radio users, utility workers, and transit operators.

In his testimony, Courtney said the tougher measures are necessary to counter the threat the behavior poses to all road users. “Distracted driving related injuries and deaths are becoming an epidemic,” he said. “Until we, as a state, take distracted driving as seriously as drunk driving we aren’t going to be able to change behavior.”

ODOT shares Courtney’s concerns. They’ve convened a Distracted Driving Task Force (of which Senator Courtney is a member) and have produced PSAs and other educational material about the problem. In March the agency called distracted driving an “epidemic.” Then in April they held a major press conference in front of the state capitol to announce the purchase of 40 unmarked Oregon State Police patrol cars that would be used to catch cell phone users.

Will the new law apply to bicycle riders? So far it’s still not completely clear. As we’ve reported in the past, all Oregon laws that apply to “vehicles” also apply to bicycles unless specifically called out otherwise. In this case the current language used is “motor vehicle” which would appear to exclude a bicycle. Since this looks to be a serious effort to change the existing law we should clean up the language and give people more clarity on this issue once and for all.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – jonathan@bikeportland.org

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120 Comments
  • Dick Button December 16, 2016 at 12:10 pm

    I passed a driver on her phone on SW Moody last night. She had her window down and was going slowly, so I said “Please get off your phone, it is dangerous!”.

    She replied “Well I don’t know where I’m going”.

    “That’s better than not knowing if you are about to hit and kill someone”.

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    • rachel b December 16, 2016 at 2:08 pm

      Good answer! Just staggering self-absorption. It’s epidemic.

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    • Gary B December 18, 2016 at 2:29 pm

      If only there were places along most roads to temporarily, safely stow one’s vehicle while one figures out where they are going.

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    • Pete December 18, 2016 at 8:24 pm

      Remember the olden days, when you had to know where you were going before you stepped into your car?

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  • todd boulanger December 16, 2016 at 12:16 pm

    I would add even “hands free” to the list of prohibited devices in use by a motor vehicle operator while driving…if one were to reference the new research about the high level of distraction talking on the phone is when looking at brainwaves etc.

    [Though I doubt they could accomplish this in the current step – too great of leap…and would likely cause all OR legislators to be in jail after their first term…at least those without chauffeurs.]

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    • encephalopath December 16, 2016 at 12:37 pm

      Exactly… we need to stop pretending that hands free mobile conversations are a solution to the distraction problem.

      http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-12-14/mobile-phone-use-car-hands-free-qut-study/8118906

      And on a national policy level, it time to stop auto manufacturers from integrating more and more of these driver distraction into their cars. Driving needs to be about driving, not effing around with a 10 inch touch screen on the dash.

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      • JeffS(egundo) December 20, 2016 at 6:08 pm

        Well those screens all have warnings when they boot up,about not allowing yourself to be distracted by them…so how could they be a problem? 😉

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    • eawrist December 16, 2016 at 2:03 pm

      Hands-free use has been studied as well. In some ways it’s akin to e-cigarettes. Many people think it’s safer.

      http://www.vtti.vt.edu/featured/?p=193

      Hands-free use “Increased the risk of getting into a crash by three times.”
      This would be more difficult to enforce since it’s not as visible, but a big loophole if hands-free devices are not included in the bill.

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  • 9watts December 16, 2016 at 12:17 pm

    Fantastic!
    And about time.

    I’m just waiting for the pushback, and the lame excuses by the usual suspects.

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  • Spiffy December 16, 2016 at 12:20 pm

    the use of a hands-free device would itself trigger the law, since it’s an electronic device not permanently installed…

    we need to ban driver phone conversations completely…

    holding a device isn’t what’s as dangerous as being drunk, it’s the actual phone conversation that’s dangerous…

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    • carsarenottheproblem December 16, 2016 at 1:20 pm

      Curious, should we also ban drivers from talking to other passengers in the car? Where do we draw the line?

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      • Hopeful December 16, 2016 at 1:44 pm

        Of course not. The research shows that talking to others in the car doesn’t affect distractability the same. I’m not sure why it doesn’t. Maybe because passengers in the car can also see/ sence times when it’s important to stop and pay closer attention to what’s going on? Maybe because passengera can help alert driver when there is an emergency?

        I read (In NE Journal?) that studies following drivers who were using hands free technology showed that they drove like someone who would blow a .10 on a breathalyzer (worse than .08-which is leagally drunk.)

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      • 9watts December 16, 2016 at 1:44 pm

        Where would you draw the line, Mr. carsarenottheproblem?

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      • Hello, Kitty December 16, 2016 at 1:51 pm

        Talking to passengers is fine; it has been demonstrated this is (usually) not a problem. Phones present a different set of problems that do not occur during in-person conversation.

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      • trollish_usernames_arenot_thesolution December 22, 2016 at 6:52 pm

        where do you draw the line? And more importantly, why do you feel so defensive about this?

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  • rainbike December 16, 2016 at 12:21 pm

    I don’t think that the problem is that the current fine is too low. I think that the problem is that the current law is not adequately enforced.

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    • B. Carfree December 16, 2016 at 12:50 pm

      Yes, the real problem we have on our roads is clearly the near-complete lack of law enforcement, not a lack of laws or fines. I would much prefer to have our legislature mandate higher performance and staffing levels on police departments. We could have data collection of speeding, intersection behavior and treatment of vulnerable road users and the results could affect the salaries of the command staffs.

      However, our fines and consequences for those few who are actually cited are entirely too low. Imagine if a second moving violation within fifteen years had a minimum fine of the value of the car when new and a ten year license revocation. If we also had a way to charge those who drive after having their licenses revoked with a felony, we might just shift our road culture. It doesn’t take too many folks staying below the speed limit to slow down the speed on a road.

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      • rachel b December 16, 2016 at 2:09 pm

        I want it all.

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        • resopmok December 16, 2016 at 8:18 pm

          I want it now.

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    • wsbob December 16, 2016 at 2:37 pm

      “…I think that the problem is that the current law is not adequately enforced.” rainbike

      And how do we as society, put together the law enforcement labor hours necessary to adequately enforce laws that aren’t being complied with? I think Peter Courtney’s idea for this legislation is ok.

      The police will never likely be able to cite everyone that gets on a phone or other distracting device unnecessary to be used while driving, but the stronger legislation would give police and society and extra, more effective tool to use, for discouraging some of the bad activity occurring while people drive, when the opportunity for them to cite does exist.

      I think the “…not permanently installed…” condition with regards to phones, could be too easy a loophole for some people to exploit: they’ll just get and extra phone and have it permanently installed in their vehicle.

      Scene from a now, old movie, that comes to mind from time to time: Melanie Griffith’s character in ‘Something Wild’, while she is riding in the car driven by the uptight office exec talking on his cell, turns to him and asks him: ‘Can I see that? ‘. He replies ‘Yes…”, ends his call, gives her the phone, she takes it and promptly throws it out the window of the moving car, to the curb.

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  • Spiffy December 16, 2016 at 12:24 pm

    with that language you’d be violating the law by looking at the digital watch on your wrist…

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    • BB December 16, 2016 at 2:19 pm

      And rightly so.

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    • Matt S. December 16, 2016 at 3:55 pm

      Well, if it’s an Apple Watch, it could be a very distracting…

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    • Allan L. December 16, 2016 at 4:04 pm

      So, wear as mechanical watch.

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  • JeffS December 16, 2016 at 12:25 pm

    Garbage legislation.

    We hand out hand-slap penalties to people whose driving failures result in collisions, injuries and deaths, and yet we’re want more speculative, supposedly preventative, legislation?

    I have a huge problem with that we know are not going to be enforced. Passing a law to send a public message is problematic. Passing a law you can’t actively enforce is problematic. Enforcing penalties selectively is hugely problematic.

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    • JeffS December 16, 2016 at 12:27 pm

      huge problem with laws that we know are not going to be enforced.

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    • rainbike December 16, 2016 at 12:38 pm

      Selective enforcement encourages selective compliance.

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    • Pete December 18, 2016 at 8:34 pm

      It’s not just police who use laws, but prosecutors and district attorneys. They need tools to convict, and it usually takes compounded offences, which this legislation would enable in situations where someone is killed or injured. Yes, I understand it’s better to be preventative, but, like VRU laws, it can give traction to judges and prosecutors.

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  • J_R December 16, 2016 at 12:35 pm

    Killing of people by drunk drivers results in a slap on the wrist.

    People have become so confident in their ability to navigate while talking and texting, we’ve lost the battle already.

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    • 9watts December 16, 2016 at 1:03 pm

      Lots of defeatism here.
      I am as chagrined at piddling enforcement as anyone, but perhaps this is a (new) start; another run at solving this. Perhaps with a tough law the enforcement piece can also be revisited.

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  • rick December 16, 2016 at 1:12 pm

    Yes indeed! I saw people using cell phones while driving through dangerous intersections during Wednesday’s snow storm.

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  • mran1984 December 16, 2016 at 1:13 pm

    I would rather be hit by someone who is intoxicated than the typical phone addict. People cannot drive with the idiot enabling device in their clutches.

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  • Buzz December 16, 2016 at 1:19 pm

    It won’t make one bit of difference if cops like Balzer continue to be indifferent to these offences.

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  • CaptainKarma December 16, 2016 at 1:27 pm

    The corporations will put a stop to this toot-sweet, esp under the new regime. This is like crack-cocaine to people who do it, and there’s far too much profit to be impinged upon. Why are you all riding bikes anyway? Hummers & limos and self-reliance is the new mantra.

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    • dan December 16, 2016 at 1:47 pm

      Yes! Lifting yourself by your own bootstraps, using only your smarts, hard work, and the hundreds of millions you inherited is the new order of the day, people need to get with the program.

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    • Buzz December 18, 2016 at 6:03 pm

      No, it’s more like ‘we invested in cell phone towers all along the interstate highways and other roads’…private enterprise at its best…plus we make $s at the hospital when u crash while using your phone.

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  • Tim December 16, 2016 at 1:29 pm

    I would like to see what would happen with enforcement of the existing laws, before increasing penalties for laws that are not enforced.

    I invite any officer to ride along with me and ticket the drivers on their phones or failing to stop for pedestrians.

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    • rachel b December 16, 2016 at 2:11 pm

      Why not both? Lay the hammer down AND up up up enforcement. I want it all.

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    • Tom Hardy December 17, 2016 at 9:40 am

      Been there dun that Tim. It is a good idea to invite police persons to accompany a civilian cyclist. I have done that with 2 Washington county sheriff’s deputies, when they were on bike patrol. they were more interested in looking for drug dealers. I pointed out 5 dealers that I had seen before at the local max stop where the deputies were on their bikes. They said that they had not seen the individuals making a sale. Of course they were in uniforms and had been there for over an hour. The dealers were behind the seating kiosk and by the refreshment stand out of direct sight of the deputies.

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  • Hello, Kitty December 16, 2016 at 1:35 pm

    Would the law restrict GPS units mounted on the windshield or dashboard? Such devices can remove distractions by making navigation easier than other (still legal) options (paper map, or slip of paper with handwritten directions).

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    • Alex December 16, 2016 at 1:58 pm

      I mount my phone and use it as my gps unit – would that be banned?

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      • BB December 16, 2016 at 2:21 pm

        I hope so.

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    • rachel b December 16, 2016 at 2:12 pm

      It should. Insane that mounted GPS units are allowed at all. Of course it’s a distraction! Just wait til Glooge succeeds in the contact lens equivalent of Glooge Glasses.

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    • 9watts December 16, 2016 at 3:47 pm

      “Such devices can remove distractions”

      Yikes!

      You’ve drunk the Koolaid, succumbed to Stockholm Syndrome.

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      • Hello, Kitty December 16, 2016 at 4:23 pm

        Not at all — I know that when I am in an unknown location, having a GPS makes navigation much easier, and removes the distractions of trying to read street signs (how much further, did I go too far?) as I pass or look for house numbers or whatever.

        I much prefer a human navigator, but when one is unavailable, a GPS is safer than the alternatives.

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        • David Burns December 16, 2016 at 5:43 pm

          I agree (but does that mean I’m drunk on the koolaid?). I generally start the navigation from someplace safe and stopped, and then just use the audio cues.

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          • Hello, Kitty December 16, 2016 at 6:47 pm

            This is especially true at night, or when it’s raining, and reading street signs sometimes requires slowing or craning your neck in a way that might lead to erratic driving.

            Pass the koolaid… my cup is getting empty.

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            • rachel b December 16, 2016 at 10:30 pm

              What happened to figuring out where you’re going before you start off? That’s always how I used to use maps (sans a co-pilot). It’s what I do now when I drive–get the GPS, study it, get oriented in brain and know where I’m going to turn etc. This gives me context, too, and more confidence. If I need to, I can pull over and look at the GPS again.

              Can’t be any safer to be looking at a map while you’re driving than it is to look at a text…right?

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              • rachel b December 16, 2016 at 10:32 pm

                Doh–I guess David Burns kinda does this…

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              • Hello, Kitty December 16, 2016 at 11:28 pm

                Yes, I do this. But if I don’t know the area I’m going to, I need to look at street names and sometimes building numbers to see where I am, perhaps referring to written instructions/map to help me remember the route (if it’s not trivial).

                With a GPS, the machine can tell me where I am and I can keep my eyes and attention on the road where it belongs.

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                • rachel b December 17, 2016 at 2:18 pm

                  Signage can be terrible in some places (HERE), so I get what you’re saying. I guess listening to directions is less of a distraction. My objection is to the visual–right on the dashboard, in the eyeline.

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              • Tom Hardy December 17, 2016 at 9:49 am

                Yes Rachael. I must have a pigeon brain. I never follow a GPS and very rarely look at a map. I have ridden bikes all over Oregon, Washington, Idaho and California. I have looked at less than 2 hands full of maps to follow road directions to find a destination. I have never been lost.
                I have driven across the U.S a half dozen times merely following my nose and have taken wrong turns a half dozen times but noticed and turned around in less than a mile when I was going the wrong direction or on the wrong road.
                I do look at Google maps on the computer now that I am older but only before I leave home.

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                • rachel b December 17, 2016 at 2:17 pm

                  Brain! Human brain! 🙂 Or, rather, pigeon brain! 🙂 I like your way of getting around, Tom.

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              • KTaylor December 17, 2016 at 11:44 am

                Hear, hear, rachel b! Or is that ‘here, here’ – I’ve never know for sure. Dash-mounted smartphones are only a minor improvement over handheld ones in terms of distraction. Humans like to think we can focus on more than one thing at a time, but we can’t – any time your eyes are on that map, they’re off the road. Also, relying on GPS to drag you every step of the way to your destination rots your hippocampus, making it harder for you to navigate when you don’t have it. It’s not that hard to memorize your route, and if it’s a really long, detailed set of instructions, you figure out where the likely chokepoints are and anticipate having to pull over and reorient yourself.

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                • rachel b December 17, 2016 at 2:31 pm

                  Hear hear, KTaylor! I fear we’ve got heaps and heaps of rotting human hippocampi about… 🙁

                  Did you hear about how the Inuit are losing their mysterious orienting skills since they got GPS?
                  Nicholas Carr:

                  “The Inuit’s extraordinary way-finding skills are born not of technological prowess – they long eschewed maps and compasses – but of a profound understanding of snowdrift patterns, animal behaviour, stars and tides.”

                  But as GPS systems proliferate and reports of serious accidents during hunts spread,

                  “…a unique talent that has distinguished a people for centuries may evaporate in a generation. Whether it’s a pilot on a flight deck, a doctor in an examination room, or an Inuit hunter on an ice floe, knowing demands doing.”

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                • Adam H. December 17, 2016 at 11:59 pm

                  Well it doesn’t help that Portland streets are so dark and street signs are not easily visible. I still often find myself missing turns on my bike because I can’t see the damn sign and every block in Portland looks the same.

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                • KTaylor December 18, 2016 at 12:55 am

                  They don’t look the same to me.

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                • rachel b December 18, 2016 at 10:15 pm

                  I’d be for better street signs, but definitely not for more light pollution. Can’t stand those new street lights they put up. I appreciate neighbors who have covered porch lights that point down.

                  Has anyone noticed the monstrous klieg lights all up and down UPRR Brooklyn Yard? Ugh! We in Clinton/Brooklyn must read like a freakin’ radioactive isotope from outer space…

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        • 9watts December 17, 2016 at 10:57 am

          “I know that when I am in an unknown location, having a GPS makes navigation much easier, and removes the distractions of trying to read street signs (how much further, did I go too far?) as I pass or look for house numbers or whatever.”

          My point is merely that this sort of explanation is no different than all the excuses others make for whatever their preferred flavor of distraction is. As Rachel B pointed out (or implied), this challenge can be solved without taking your eyes off the road: pull over, slow down to a crawl, or better yet memorize the turns ahead of time so all you need to do is confirm the cues you memorized as you encounter them.

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          • rachel b December 17, 2016 at 2:33 pm

            Yes! Memorize! Your hippocampus will thank you! 🙂

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          • Hello, Kitty December 18, 2016 at 7:41 pm

            It’s not where your eyes are, but where your attention is at. That’s why hands free is still dangerous, even if you never look away from the street.

            Let the GPS do the work so I can concentrate on the road.

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            • rachel b December 18, 2016 at 10:17 pm

              But…GPS is stealing your attention and focus too. Esp. if you talk back to it.

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              • Middle of the Road Guy December 19, 2016 at 9:17 am

                well now we have to eliminate my invisible friend.

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  • Dave December 16, 2016 at 1:37 pm

    On-the-spot destruction of the phone by the police officer. Make it cost, make it hurt.

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    • Hello, Kitty December 16, 2016 at 1:45 pm

      Do it slow, and make ’em watch.

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      • rachel b December 16, 2016 at 2:13 pm

        🙂

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    • dan December 16, 2016 at 3:19 pm

      Confiscate and give to Free Geek, which will wipe and resell 🙂

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    • mh December 17, 2016 at 10:32 am

      How ’bout, after any reportable crash, it is required that phone carriers report on how the phone was being used at approximately that time? Automatic subpoena to determine whether the driver was texting (nailed), talking (nailed), doing a web search for anything (nailed), or just letting Siri or her Android counterpart instruct (maybe not nailed).

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    • Buzz December 19, 2016 at 9:13 pm

      the officer has drunk the koolaid, it’s not gonna happen…

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  • rachel b December 16, 2016 at 2:14 pm

    Thanks, Peter Courtney. For the common sense.

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  • Alexis December 16, 2016 at 2:17 pm

    How would this affect Uber and Lyft drivers? Most of them use their phones on mounts to access the app – not “permanently installed” per the new proposed law. I assume they would be required to pull over in order to use the app, which, frankly, I’d be a huge fan of.

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    • Matt S. December 16, 2016 at 3:59 pm

      Good luck with this.

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    • Mark December 17, 2016 at 10:42 am

      I would love it if this law was applied to Uber goobers as well. Unfortunately, I know how it will play out. Uber will use its deep pockets and influence to water down the legislation to the point of ineffectiveness.

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  • Austin December 16, 2016 at 2:34 pm

    Its a Simple soultion…Stay off the damn phone when your driving nuff said

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  • Tom Hardy December 16, 2016 at 2:52 pm

    Personally I don’t think PPB will enforce the laws as Mr. Courtney defined it. From my observations, there is no enforcement of DUI or mobile phone laws.
    What needs to happen is citizen tickets or citations given to patrol persons that do not notice or disregard both DUI and Mobile phone violations by motorists.
    An example is the article early this week of a cyclists that slapped a car of a motorist that was busy talking on a phone and then chased down by a police person that witnessed the car slap but disregarded the motor operator using the phone.

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    • B. Carfree December 16, 2016 at 3:29 pm

      I love the idea of citizen citations for cops who ignore violations. It reminds me of an article on game theory I read a few years ago. It showed that one could increase ethical behavior (in this case defined by following the rules) by allowing participants to punish those who violated the rules by a small amount. However, if the participants were instead required to punish anyone who had failed to punish a rule-breaker, rule following increased dramatically.

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      • Hello, Kitty December 16, 2016 at 6:50 pm

        It is a good thing for the police to have discretion, and not jump on every infraction they see. (Yes, I know, Adam H…. don’t say it…)

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        • B. Carfree December 18, 2016 at 7:52 pm

          Why? That just introduces bias. If they saw enough to pull someone over, then they saw enough to write a citation.

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          • Hello, Kitty December 19, 2016 at 10:59 am

            Because the law does not always fit perfectly with the totality of circumstance in the real world. The system relies on people at all levels to exercise discretion and judgement. This doesn’t always happen, of course, and it is often a lack of discretion and judgement that leads to the greatest injustices with the police and courts.

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            • q December 19, 2016 at 10:13 pm

              Exactly. Laws would become unworkable if enforcers were prevented from using discretion.

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          • Hello, Kitty December 19, 2016 at 11:02 am

            And to provide a rather obvious but clear counter to your statement… if an officer pulls over someone for speeding, should they write a ticket if the person was driving fast to get a seriously injured person to the hospital?

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          • q December 19, 2016 at 10:20 pm

            Ability to use discretion allows a cop to focus on what’s important. If they’re out enforcing speeding laws, and being kept busy pulling over severe speeders, should they pull over the driver going slightly too fast, or the jaywalker, or the car whose tags expired last week, knowing that that time could have been spent giving a big ticket to a dangerous speeder?

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    • 9watts December 16, 2016 at 3:45 pm

      And then there’s the fact that cop cars are chock full of electronic distractions….

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  • bikeninja December 16, 2016 at 3:11 pm

    The thing that would really make these potential laws work is a real time phone company interface that the cops can use to check if a motorist was using a device at the time a traffic infraction occured. So if a motorist right hooks you and a cop arrives they get fined $$, or go to jail for repeat offenders.

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  • m December 16, 2016 at 3:39 pm

    ‘“Mobile electronic device” means an electronic device that is not permanently installed in a motor vehicle.’

    So only rich folks with newer cars and on board navigation can use GPS from now on?
    If a person has an after market GARMIN GPS device mounted on their dash with a suction cup is not ok but if I have an on board navigation system in a fancy new car, that is ok?

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    • Kevin December 16, 2016 at 10:43 pm

      I understand what you’re saying, but does the science suggest a device such mounted is unacceptably dangerous? Do you have a suggestion to provide both modern convenience and safety on the road?

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      • q December 20, 2016 at 11:42 am

        It seems like the solution that combines convenience and safety, at least for giving directions, is the voice navigation systems phones already have. You get in your car, tell your phone where you want to go before you turn on the engine, then set your phone down, and you never have to touch or look at it again. No more pulling over to check maps or directions while trying to figure out which direction you’re headed, trying to keep memorized directions in mind, trying to remember how far to the next turn so you’re not trying to read each street sign, etc. If you miss a turn, it will direct you back on course, again audibly.

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        • Kevin December 21, 2016 at 6:48 am

          We also know the shortest way between to points is a straight line. But we see how people behave on similarly designed roads.

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    • Burk December 17, 2016 at 2:06 pm

      Surprised it took this long to find this comment. I’m all for ending distracted driving but the income disparity of this proposed legislation worries me a bit. So using the built in nav system in a new Cadillac is ok but someone in their 98 civic with the iPhone suction cupped to the dash is going to get pulled over and ticketed? That worries me in a variety of ways.

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      • Kevin December 20, 2016 at 6:55 am

        The built in NAV system is designed to not take input instructions while the vehicle is moving. It’s also on the dash, and not in the field of vision of the driver.

        There is very clearly some disparity here, but one use of technology does appear to be more dangerous than the other.

        Perhaps a solution is both technical and behavioral — 1. get software developers to someone sense “car mode” for a driver (no idea how to do thing right now, but there are smart people out there), and 2. Require the phone to be mounted on the dash / in a manner that is visible to the driver, yet out of the field of view through the windshield.

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        • Pete December 26, 2016 at 8:43 pm

          Both Android and Windows (phone) have had “Driving Mode” for quite a while now. The user has to enter it manually, just like with Airplane Mode.

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      • Pete December 26, 2016 at 8:47 pm

        Income disparity??? People safely navigated cars to where they were going for decades before smartphones were invented or GPS became public. If you can afford a data plan, you can afford to figure out where you’re going before you drive there, and it doesn’t cost a thing to find a safe place to pull over to look at your smartphone.

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  • Matt S. December 16, 2016 at 4:00 pm

    I see people with smart phones mounted to their bike, does this count as well?

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    • resopmok December 16, 2016 at 8:25 pm

      You must not have read the whole article. Tucked away in the last paragraph is this enlightening tidbit:

      “In this case the current language used is “motor vehicle” which would appear to exclude a bicycle.”

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      • Middle of the Road Guy December 19, 2016 at 9:16 am

        That doesn’t mean that’s a smart policy. Distracted it distracted.

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    • Oliver December 19, 2016 at 11:36 am

      I would hope not. Bicycles aren’t killing pedestrians with alarming regularity, and I like my Garmin.

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  • Allan L. December 16, 2016 at 4:07 pm

    Serious driver training and licensing standards would help a bit.

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  • bikeninja December 16, 2016 at 4:19 pm

    If these laws pass, we could hire an additional 100 unmarked bicycle cops and pay for them with the proceeds of the fines. This would clean up our road congestion problems and probably cut out 80% of the accidents.

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  • chris December 16, 2016 at 6:45 pm

    All these phones have GPS, right? Make them come with programming that disables the phone/texting when the GPS detects it moving over 3, maybe 5 mph? Need the map on you phone, pull over to look at it.

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    • paul h December 19, 2016 at 3:23 pm

      1) So I guess this would also apply to passengers in the car?
      2) The State of Oregon is going deliver prescriptive requirements for mobile operating system behavior to e.g., Apple, Google, Samsung, Microsoft…? Which state agency will review the operating systems to make sure the requirements have been met? Once approved, would a security update to the operating system trigger a new review? etc etc

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      • Kevin December 20, 2016 at 6:57 am

        States regulate commerce and products all the time, no?

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        • paul h December 20, 2016 at 9:32 am

          False equivalence. The level of effort and expertise required to e.g. ensure food safety is vastly different than the inner workings of an operating system.

          Even it if wasn’t, the original recommendation is technically short-sighted in a way that would be unacceptable to the general public. For instance, how would you reliably distinguish between a driver sitting in traffic, and a bus passenger sitting in traffic? (you can’t).

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  • chris December 16, 2016 at 6:46 pm

    your phone, you phone, oops

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  • Tom Hardy December 17, 2016 at 9:56 am

    With salt being used now on roads, if the car has been driven over 10 years on roads with salt in winter the car is unsafe, and the suspension mounts are rusted past the failure point for safety.
    We will need to be enforcing this for vision zero.

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    • Buzz December 18, 2016 at 6:04 pm

      they should be trading use of salt for use of studded tires…

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      • Pete December 18, 2016 at 8:25 pm

        Or use of proper winter tires for either.

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  • Kittens December 17, 2016 at 10:11 am

    I would love to know what it would take to get some enforcement. The fact that it is so easy to spot and widely pervasive makes it beyond frustrating to someone who such as myself who is focused solely on the task at hand.

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  • caesar December 17, 2016 at 11:48 am

    Hopeful
    Of course not. The research shows that talking to others in the car doesn’t affect distractability the same. I’m not sure why it doesn’t. Maybe because passengers in the car can also see/ sence times when it’s important to stop and pay closer attention to what’s going on? Maybe because passengera can help alert driver when there is an emergency?
    I read (In NE Journal?) that studies following drivers who were using hands free technology showed that they drove like someone who would blow a .10 on a breathalyzer (worse than .08-which is leagally drunk.)
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    I’m not aware of any research comparing safety of hands free device conversations with safety of driver-passenger conversations. Can you cite any? I believe that its reasonable and prudent to assume that if I’m talking with someone and thinking about that conversation while driving, it matters not a bit if that person is sitting next to me or in a building across town. I’m happy to be proven wrong, though, if (as you say) reliable data shows otherwise.

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  • bendite December 18, 2016 at 12:39 pm

    Having a conversation utilizes parts of the brain committed to vision, because as you talk with someone, you create a scene of sorts in your head. It’s one reason I can’t track novels on audio while driving because I’m paying attention to the road. When you have someone in the car with you, they cooperate with you in a sense, and the conversation ebbs and flows with the road/driving conditions.

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  • Middle of the Road Guy December 19, 2016 at 9:15 am

    This should apply to all road users. You don’t need to look at your phone when you are crossing a street as a pedestrian or on your bike, either.

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  • Pat Ell December 19, 2016 at 10:20 am

    Relieved to see some initiative to address this problem. For any of us who pay attention, the number of motorists who are driving distracted has reached an epidemic level, and that is putting lives at risk.

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  • Matt S. December 20, 2016 at 10:49 am

    I’m a driver from time to time and I’ve never had a smart phone, just always a flip. I received a smart phone for my birthday. It’s amazing what the smart phone does to you when driving. I find myself reaching for it at the light, stop sign, etc. I shocked myself how easy it is to want to play on the thing while at rest. I’ve started turning it off when I get in the car.

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    • JeffS(egundo) December 20, 2016 at 6:19 pm

      And for that, I thank you.

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  • Edward December 21, 2016 at 12:57 pm

    This is so sad. This is the wrong legal response.

    Why not just make phone companies liable for accidents that happen when people are using their phones and have a motor vehicle accident. Or split liability between phone company and the operating system and/or app running while driving. That way, the phone companies would each have an incentive to work towards technological fixes to disable phones while people are driving — instead of competing to keep us all addicted to our devices.

    Blaming the people and punishing them is … just a sad waste. Why should corporations get a free pass to ruin society, stay profitable and bear no risk? And instead we invent a new morality (that isn’t realistic) and blame and punish random individuals when things go wrong. Kind of disgusting really.

    Each phone should come equipped with “Driving Mode”. You go faster than 10 mph and It’ll only let you use a hands free navigating or map application, but not make phone calls, email, text, do social media, etc. At most, it’d make a noise to let you know to pull over and park to answer the phone, etc.

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    • paul h December 21, 2016 at 4:20 pm

      What about passengers not operating the car/bus/train?

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      • Tom December 26, 2016 at 8:21 pm

        The cell phone makers have buildings full of smart engineers. They can figure out a way if they are nudged. Smart phones have the ability to communicate with each other. If they sense other phones nearby with the same exact movement signature indicating they are all in the same car, the phones can together require that one of the phones in the group be blocked from use (blocked while not moving). Of course one of the passengers could block their phone thus allowing the driver to use their phone, but this would not be that smart on the part of the passenger, and penalties could be made very high for bypassing the system. Of course someone could root their phone and bypass the system, but again typically society has less of a problem assigning high penalties to those who intentionally bypass systems. For example, if someone runs a red light and gets caught, they only need to take an online class to get out of it, but if they use a homemade infrared green light trigger instead, they are going to be aggressively prosecuted and do time in prison.

        If we can send people to Mars, we can figure out how to block phone use by a driver in most cases, while still allowing passenger use.

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        • Pete December 26, 2016 at 8:36 pm

          “If we can send people to Mars, we can figure out how to block phone use by a driver in most cases, while still allowing passenger use.”

          Lots of money can be made by sending people to Mars. Blocking smartphone use, at any time, for any user, impedes the revenue streams created by the bandwidth providers, advertisers, and data gatherers. This is why car companies are now spending tons of money to build these platforms into dashboards everywhere. Society as a whole seems to have little interest in disabling this technology, regardless of the collateral damage. I suspect what little momentum you see towards controlling it is backed primarily by the auto insurance industry, just like with any mandatory safety feature cars now require. (I’m old enough to remember the battles over anti-lock brakes, daytime running lights, air bags, and even seatbelts).

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        • Paul Hobson January 1, 2017 at 5:31 pm

          So the government is going to have to force Apple to play nice with Google, Samsung, Motorola, HTC, and development universal protocols for all phones from the cheapest pre-paid flip phone up through their most expensive flag ships.

          This honestly feels like the least viable option.

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  • Lizzy December 26, 2016 at 5:03 am

    I got hurt badly by a distracted driver. She was reaching for a cell phone on her floorboard. Rammed me at 40mph while I was at a stop light in my smaller car. Still trying to recover – year 3.

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