By one vote in the Senate, Oregon finally moves to curtail cell phones while driving

Posted by on June 23rd, 2009 at 2:56 pm

“The use of cell phones is increasing so much that we have to get a handle on it now.”
— Ginny Burdick (D-Portland)

After several years of trying, the Oregon Legislature has passed a law that will make the use of cell phones while operating a motor vehicle illegal. House bill 2377, sponsored by Rep. Carolyn Tomei (D-Milwaukie), squeaked by the Senate today by a vote of 16-13 (with one excused).

That’s just one more vote than required for a bill to pass and it came down to the wire, with Senator Margaret Carter changing her vote from no to yes in the final seconds.

The vote went nearly straight down party lines, with only one Democrat, Senator Laurie Monnes Anderson from Gresham crossing over to vote against it.

Story continues below

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The bill breezed through the House where it passed 38-22 back in April. Today, it was introduced on the floor by Senator Ginny Burdick. Burdick had sponsored a similar bill last session and told her colleagues today that, “The use of cell phones is increasing so much that we have to get a handle on it now.” She pointed out that Washington, California, and seven other states already have a cell phone ban on the books and that it’s a “reasonable thing to ask” of drivers.

Also speaking in support of the bill prior to the vote is another biking Senator, Jackie Dingfelder (D-Portland). Dingfelder said she witnessed a near miss due to a man driving with a cell phone on his ear just last night while biking in Northeast Portland.

“To single out cell phones as the only bad thing they [people] do when driving is absurd. My wife puts on makeup while driving… tell me that’s safe.”
— Jeff Kruse (R-Roseburg)

Senator Jeff Kruse, a Republican Senator from Roseburg, didn’t mince words when he said, “This is a really stupid bill.”

Saying, “This is more nanny state” and “let’s leave the people of Oregon along for God’s sake!”, Kruse urged his colleagues to vote no. Kruse feels that the existing laws on the books for distracted driving already take care of the problem. He said, “To single out cell phones as the only bad thing they [people] do when driving is absurd. My wife puts on makeup while driving… tell me that’s safe.”

Among the Republicans voting against the bill today was Senator Jason Atkinson. Atkinson is a former semi-pro roadie who has come out in support of bike bills in the past (Idaho Stop and the Fixed Gear Brake bill) and he gave a keynote speech at the Oregon Bike Summit held in Salem back in April.

Legislator bike ride at the Oregon Bike Summit-20

Sen. Atkinson (L) chats with Bike Gallery
owner Jay Graves during a ride
around the capitol in April.

But despite his bike-friendly credentials, Atkinson told me yesterday he wouldn’t support the bill. Why not? I asked. Atkinson said he noticed in California, after the cell phone ban passed “there were a lot of unhappy people,” that it, “ignited people against each other,” and that he hasn’t seen it accomplish what advocates have said it would.

He also said he didn’t feel he’d gotten enough support and feedback about the issue from his constituents. “We’re at the last week of session,” he said, “and I really don’t think we’re going to have the proper public input on that bill.” Atkinson continued; “Toward the end of session I get real skeptical of major policy changes when the public doesn’t get a chance to weigh in.”

As passed, HB 2377 will make the use of a “mobile communication device” while driving a primary offense, meaning cops need no other reason to pull you over (I have mistakenly reported more than once that it would only be a secondary offense). The offense will come with a $90 fine and will go into effect on January 1, 2010.

The bill provides exceptions for hand-free devices, emergency responders, CB radio operators and for people whom the operation of a motor vehicle is “necessary for the person’s job.”

Since a few amendments were made in the Senate (for CB radio operators), the bill will head back to the House for final approval and will then be signed by the Governor.

As for talking on a cell phone while biking, the bill specifically states that it applies to, “operating a motor vehicle” so unless you’ve got a motorized bicycle I assume it doesn’t apply.

Learn more about the bill, and download the full text here.

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68 Comments
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    flawed bill June 23, 2009 at 3:18 pm

    Maybe why the California bill didn’t have much effect on anything except the bottom line of accessory manufacturers is that the studies about cell phone use show that hands free devices do not make cell phones any safer.

    As for the idea that we shouldn’t single out cell phones because putting on make-up is just as bad, well so is drunk driving, does Sen. Kruse support legalizing that?

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    JHB June 23, 2009 at 3:18 pm

    Anyone know if this law applies to talking on the cell phone while biking?

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    Neighbor June 23, 2009 at 3:26 pm

    The bill provides exceptions for … people whom operation of a motor vehicle is “necessary for the person’s job.”

    So all the HGV drivers (Tri-Met buses, garbage trucks, cement trucks) can still call and drive at the same time? …What?

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    gabriel amadeus June 23, 2009 at 3:26 pm

    I almost got hit buy a lady talking on her cellphone yesterday. This is good news!

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    Carlsson June 23, 2009 at 3:26 pm

    Jonathan,

    Are you sure it’s a primary offense? It still appears as though it’s secondary…

    Notwithstanding ORS 810.410, a police officer may
    enforce this provision only as a secondary action when a driver of a motor vehicle has been detained for a suspected traffic violation or some other offense.

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    Jonathan Maus (Editor) June 23, 2009 at 3:29 pm

    “Anyone know if this law applies to talking on the cell phone while biking?”

    The bill specifically calls out “while operating a motor vehicle”…so unless your bike has a motor, I think technically you cannot be charged with the offense while biking.

    Are you sure it’s a primary offense? It still appears as though it’s secondary…

    yes. I’m positive. notice those brackets around the bill text you quote above? Brackets in a bill means that it is “existing law to be omitted”. thanks.

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    Tim K June 23, 2009 at 3:51 pm

    I hope your primary offense bill works better than our (Washington) secondary offense measure.

    Enforcement/tickets written have been almost nill here and if anything I see more drivers on the phone than ever.

    But at least we can brag about having the laws (sigh). Our local govt does that with our bike infrastructure, too (ie, looks good on paper so they send out press releases to USA Today (double sigh).

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    Flora June 23, 2009 at 4:05 pm

    this is good news — a step in the right direction! in future sessions, we need to close the loopholes:

    -emergency responders don’t go out alone — the person on the cellphone should be the person who’s *not* the driver. that driver is going extra-fast too, all the more reason to stay focused on the road.

    -“hands-free” can mean just a speakerphone, with hands still required to dial. even with voice-dialing, it leaves the distraction of the remote conversation, which differs from talking with a passenger in the car in that there are reception issues, dropped calls, and the concentration of the auditory sense on the phone call which detracts from visual acuity.

    -what is that last loophole mentioned in the story — couldn’t anyone escape the fine by arguing that being reachable by phone is necessary for their job?

    so there’s no need for any of these loopholes: emergency responders have a partner in the vehicle to handle the cellphone, and everyone else can just pull over if they need to make a call. i mean, really.

    we also need to get pro-active and add awareness-building about the importance of avoiding distractions to driver education and requirements to get a driver’s license. both hands on the wheel, both eyes scanning the range of the windshield, driving defensively, and slowing down! anything that distracts while the car is moving — eating, drinking, putting on makeup, digging out a CD, fiddling with the mp3 player — increases the chance of accidents with our fellow travelers.

    whether behind the wheel or in the saddle, the prime directive on the road is that we’re *sharing* it!

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    rixtir June 23, 2009 at 4:10 pm

    Actually, this bill does NOT ban cell phone use while driving.

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    ScottG June 23, 2009 at 4:17 pm

    The “nanny state” argument is so ridiculous. With scientific, peer-reviewed evidence that talking on a cell phone while driving is akin to driving under the influence of alcohol, I’d like to see the Republicans put their money where their mouth is and try sponsoring legislation revoking DUI laws. I’m sure just as many people think *they* can talk on a cell phone safely while driving as people who think they can down a few brews and drive home safely, right?

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    chelsea June 23, 2009 at 4:22 pm

    nanny state shmanny state. until people grow brains and think for themselves i’m just fine with someone else doing it for them. i have seen so many near misses, and one hit because of fools who think they alone have the talent to talk on a phone and drive at the same time. i wish hands free devices were banned as well.

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    cyclist June 23, 2009 at 4:27 pm

    I’m not convinced that this bill will affect safety one iota. I guess we’ll know in a few years when we can examine crash data. I’ve had a few near misses with cell phone drivers, but most have been people who aren’t doing anything but driving.

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    Bill Stites June 23, 2009 at 4:52 pm

    This is great news.

    The level of brain power/attention required to carry on a conversation with someone remote from your vehicle is a major distraction. And those on other end of the phone, have no sense of what the driver is encountering; providing innocent-but-dangerous demands on the driver’s brain during yellow lights, merging cyclists, etc.

    Is there any mention about texting? Which seems even worse by pulling the eyes off the road.

    Sure, there are many other aspects to distract drivers, but this one is huge, and getting huger. ;-o

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    rixtir June 23, 2009 at 4:53 pm

    Anyone know if this law applies to talking on the cell phone while biking?

    The law applies to persons operating “motor vehicles,” so it shouldn’t apply to cyclists. However, the Oregon Supreme Court has held (erroneously, in my opinion) that the term “motor vehicle” includes bicycles, so this law may well apply to cyclists.

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    rixtir June 23, 2009 at 4:55 pm

    Bill Stites, #13:

    If you truly believe that the issue is the attention required to carry on a conversation with someone remote (and you’re right, that is precisely the issue), why do you think this law is “great news”?

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    buzz June 23, 2009 at 4:57 pm

    Well Mr. Kruse, why not ask your wife to stop putting makeup on when driving. I mean, that does affect you. Your insurance payments are going to go up when she rear ends someone.

    I hope this bill helps a little. That is all about I can expect it to do. Driving with a bluetooth is really the same with the thing glued to your ear.

    Makeup, iPods, referring kids. All those things make drivers less mindful of a task they have been given the responsibility to do safely.

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    RonC June 23, 2009 at 5:11 pm

    It will be interesting to see how completely this law will be enforced. Maybe the Nanny state argument has more to do with enforcement rather than the letter of the law. If we ask for strict enforcement of laws like no cell phone use while driving, then aren’t we also tacitly accepting strict enforcement of other laws such as complete stops for all vehicles at stop signs, and no hands-free bike riding? (I’ve been guilty of both at different times.) Is there a legal distinction I’m missing?

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    encephalopath June 23, 2009 at 5:33 pm

    The exception for people for whom the operation of a motor vehicle is “necessary for the person’s job seems like a pretty big hole.

    Who is that? Realtors, contractors, all delivery/courrier people… pretty much anyone with a magnetic sign on the door.

    That’s a lot of exempted drivers.

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    wsbob June 23, 2009 at 5:37 pm

    “After several years of trying, the Oregon Legislature has passed a law that will make the use of cell phones while operating a motor vehicle illegal.”

    “The bill provides exceptions for hand-free devices,… ” maus/bikeportland

    “Actually, this bill does NOT ban cell phone use while driving.” rixter # 9

    What exactly is this intent of this bill? Is it really only making illegal, the kind of cell phone use where a person holds the cell phone to their ear with one hand while steering the car with the other?

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    encephalopath June 23, 2009 at 5:43 pm

    For the exempted people what concerns me is that the people conducting business from the car are often in unfamiliar surroundings. They aren’t sure where they’re going, they don’t know how the traffic flow works, and they aren’t at they’re most attentive.

    Throwing a mobile phone conversation into that mix makes things dangerous. I’ve had more than a few bad interactions with the magnetic door sign people who were evidently driving in areas unfamiliar to them.

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    R-diddly June 23, 2009 at 5:55 pm

    This nanny-state is out of control! Government shouldn’t meddle in our lives; it should meddle in Iraqi lives. (Meddling in the lives of the citizens of the same country you govern is sooo pre-modern.)

    And why single out cell phones? My wife likes to drive down the street shooting people randomly with a gun. Are you going to tell me that’s safe? That proves this is a bad bill!

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    P Finn June 23, 2009 at 5:55 pm

    It seems like so much of this would fall collectively under some sort of Negligent Roadway User Behavior umbrella; Those who do not use the roadway in a manner consistent with the spirit of the law, not necessarily the exact letter of it, are negatively impacting equitable access.

    ne pas?

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    Brad June 23, 2009 at 7:26 pm

    I think this is a good start.

    Next they can ban loud music, makeup application, talking kids, and smoking of any kind. After that, nagging wives (my favorite) and eventually banning driving all together followed by parking. Maybe then we could make breeding and breathing illegal…which I will be totally ok with since life will will not be worth living by that point anyway.

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    Disastronaut June 23, 2009 at 7:51 pm

    My favorite is watching the fools driving stick with one hand on the cell and the other dancing between the steering wheel and gearshift. That’s a totally safe practice if I’ve ever seen one. /sarcasm

    If this bill gets just one of those kinds of drivers to stop such a dangerous juggling act I’d consider it a success.

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    Abbey S High June 23, 2009 at 8:31 pm

    Yeah! A hands free law for you up north! BUT what a bunch of reactionary cluckers. If you haters had any cahoneys you would DEMAND bikers be included in this law BUT Noooooooo … two wheels good fours wheels bad, right? Show me one biker who is not a hazard to while THEY are yakking on their phones balancing phone and gear shifts? Talk to me the biker who on their phone swerves out of his lane is not a problem then flips off the driver who honks to wake him up. Nope, can’t be; that would be against the cause. Right? It’s the driver’s fault. It’s always the drivers fault. That’s the mantra right? Bleating foolish sheep … baaahhad drivers gooood riders. What a joke. Anyone have the nuts to stand up? Mmmm?

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    efglez June 23, 2009 at 9:59 pm

    sen.lauriemonnesanderson@state.or.us
    I am going to write her and tell her how bad it is out there with some drivers that are not paying attention at all, just to their phone and conversation while driving- I have been almost hit twice, and I see all the stupid things people do while talking away on the phone- KILL YOUR PHONE! put it in the toilet bowl and flush it! lol

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    Pete June 24, 2009 at 1:27 am

    Abbey (#25): way to generalize. I agree it should include bicyclists. But the reality is they’re not the ones causing serious accidents by distracting themselves with cell phones, makeup, etc. If they were the legislature would introduce a bill banning cell phone use while riding a bicycle.

    I feel the intention of this bill would keep me safer when I’m driving, let alone riding a bike. I’ve been cut off and nearly sideswiped by distracted drivers on several occasions. Not so much on a bicycle because I assume all drivers are distracted and don’t see me.

    I’ll bet now that this has passed you’ll see people paying attention and not talking on the phone distracted anymore, though. Just like I see down here in California now![/sarcasm]

    Abbey, do you even ride, or are you just another armchair commentator? Get out there and see what it’s like… now that takes cahoneys.

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    whatever June 24, 2009 at 1:35 am

    I’m not a big fan of cell phone laws. If you do a little bit of research, you will see that states that restrict cell phone usage while driving have not seen any significant reduction in traffic accidents. In fact, New York has seen an increase in cell phone related traffic accidents. And NY was the first state to pass a cell phone law. There are many more traffic accidents caused by makeup, reading signs, yelling at your kids in the back seat, etc. Cell phone related traffic accidents are such as small percentage of traffic accidents. It seems that our state legislature should be concentrating on more important things. Oh…and now I will have to look for cops while driving and talking on my cell phone….another distraction while driving!

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    Pete June 24, 2009 at 2:11 am

    Oh yeah, story time! Driving over The Dalles bridge, woman in a black Ford Expedition blows stop sign at the I-84 offramp. I slam on brakes and steer into oncoming traffic, stopping in front of her SUV (thank you anti-locks!). Oncoming car screeches to a halt narrowly missing both of us by angling down I-84 onramp. Woman sits there freaked, just talking on phone and waving her arms like it’s gossip! My passenger rolls down the window and yells and motions her to back up so we can go; finally other driver gets out and walks up and taps on her window. She rolls it down and looks at him; he very calmly says “Hang up your phone, put the truck in reverse, and back up to the stop sign. When we’ve both driven out of your way, you’re gonna wanna take a right turn, then another immediate right. Follow that road to the end. There you’ll find a state police station where you can turn in your driver’s license.”

    He nonchalantly turned and walked away – we all busted a gut! That guy was my hero!

    So yeah Abbey, it’s not the four wheels that are bad, it’s the idiots behind the wheel causing legislature like this to pass all over the nation.

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    Matt Picio June 24, 2009 at 7:37 am

    buzz (#16) – Unless I miss my guess, Mr. Kruse has likely *repeatedly* asked his wife to stop doing so. If Mr. Kruse was putting makeup on while driving, I think you’d have a legitimate gripe. We can’t control others, only ourselves.

    In any case, Mr. Kruse is right – this legislation singles out cellphones, while ignoring everything else out there that people do which is distracted driving. I’d be more impressed with our legislature if they had toughened the penalties for distracted driving and provided more money for enforcement. I’d be even more impressed if they refused license renewal to those who’d been convicted of distracted driving three times since the last renewal period.

    But, since those things will likely NOT happen, this is a “better than nothing” stopgap measure.

    Unfortunately, the “nanny state” is a likely result when people fail to police themselves.

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    Jeff P June 24, 2009 at 8:55 am

    It is still all about enforcement and then what the courts/lawyers/judges allow offenders to get away with when it comes to a trial [if carried that far].

    As for nanny state – I agree it is true. There are plenty of well-meaning laws already on the books that *should* address ALL of these issues of distraction IF they were simply enforced. Having to get it down to the absolute specifics of this or that because people cannot figure it out themselves…well, that is unfortunate.

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    Vance Longwell June 24, 2009 at 9:22 am

    This is the same garbage I see every time the Nanny State fascists set about criminalizing human-behavior. There are Oregon Revised Statutes in existence that regulate distracted driving already. Your own research, the research data that has been spun and manipulated a thousand ways from Sunday, proves that this behavior is no more dangerous than many other similar behaviors which are not going to be criminalized.

    Those of you who support Nanny State legislation like this have a choice. If you find operating a vehicle of any sort, let alone a motor-vehicle, too risky under existing conditions, conditions that millions, upon millions of people cope with and navigate in complete safety everyday, then you may choose to use mass-transit, walk, car-pool… .

    If you freely choose to access the public-right-of-way, who are you to even consider other people’s freedom of choice? Don’t they instill a fear of the Slippery Slope in school children anymore? If you support Nanny State initiatives like criminalizing human behavior, where do you suggest we draw the line? Using the law to control destructive behaviors like imbibing in an intoxicating substance, that also has a much more uniform effect across a broader range of people, is one thing; and comparing this to mobile phone use is a misnomer. Using the law to criminalize marginally dangerous, rude, or class-based behaviors is Nanny State fascism by definition, and serves only to homogenize enforcement of other behaviors that pose a much greater threat to public health.

    The, “Chicken Littles”, already stuck lights on our bikes. Even though 90% of the people I personally witnessed supporting this draconian policy repeatedly used language like, “I almost hit them…”, “I had a really close call…”, “It was difficult to see them…”, and never once, “I couldn’t see them, and subsequently collided with them.”. Turns out, under low-light conditions, humans are more keyed into noticing movement, than they are lights. In reality, certain people, usually a minority of people, practice using personal judgement as evidence that other people’s personal choices are wrong. These certain people seem to lack any compunction about enforcing their judgement, and foisting their views on the population of an entire state.

    Cell phones aren’t hurting anything but your delicate sense of class-entitlement. Maus says he has a mini-van. I’ll bet I can prove he can’t stop that as quickly as I can a contemporary two-door urban-runabout. Therefore, I suggest we ban minivans because they are too dangerous to allow people that choice. Is that about how one becomes a Nanny State fascist?

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    Dave June 24, 2009 at 9:25 am

    +1, Chelsea #11.

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    rixtir June 24, 2009 at 9:25 am

    It’s only a “nanny state”law if it attempts to keep you from killing yourself. A real cell phone ban (i.e., not this smoke-and-mirrors “ban”) attempts to keep you from killing me. By definition, that is NOT a “nanny state” law.

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    Vance Longwell June 24, 2009 at 9:39 am

    “…attempts to keep you from killing me.”

    Point of fact rixtr #31. Cell phones have been a ubiquitous part of driving for over a decade. You’re not dead. You imply that you support criminalizing this particular human behavior, yet will derive no benefit whatsoever then. Supporting a law against a behavior that isn’t hurting you is the very definition of Nanny State. I know you don’t like being a fascist, as evidenced by your attempt to squirm out of that responsibility, but you’re quacking pretty much like a duck…

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    El Biciclero June 24, 2009 at 9:49 am

    “For the exempted people what concerns me is that the people conducting business from the car are often in unfamiliar surroundings. They aren’t sure where they’re going, they don’t know how the traffic flow works, and they aren’t at they’re most attentive.”

    This is a good point. Just yesterday I witnessed a guy in a contractor pickup make a wrong-way turn down a one-way street and proceed across an intersection against a red light (because he couldn’t see the light, going the wrong way and all), causing a driver on the cross street to make an emergency, screeching stop right in front of me as I waited at the red light the wrong-way driver was running backwards. Neither driver was on a cell phone, but imagine if either one of them had been on the phone at the same time all this was going on!

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    rixtir June 24, 2009 at 9:50 am

    And DUI has been a ubiquitous part of driving for longer than that, and I’m not dead from that, either, Vance.

    Therefore, according to your argument, I’ve derived no benefit whatsoever from DUI laws, because DUI isn’t hurting me.

    Unless, that is, the law’s intent is to prevent somebody from killing me.

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    El Biciclero June 24, 2009 at 10:09 am

    But Vance, drivers wanting to be able to continue to drive distracted–and in fact recognizing that they DO drive distracted–is why most of them support a helmet law. Which is more nanny-ish: banning behavior that (studies show) makes drivers more dangerous to others, or forcing some of those others to wear the “styrofoam hat” because drivers can’t be bothered to pay attention? I realize we don’t have a helmet law (yet) in Oregon, but “look out for others” vs. “protect yourself from others” are two sides of the same coin. Would you call “heads” or “tails” in that coin toss?

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    fredlf June 24, 2009 at 10:12 am

    One more time: there is a wealth of scientific evidence that clearly shows talking on a cell phone is, for reasons that have to do with the biology of the human perceptual system, MUCH MORE dangerous than other forms of distraction (e.g. putting on make-up), so much so that it is on a par with driving drunk.
    Vance, Sen. Kruse and the nanny-state whiners can bleat all they want to, and make useless a priori arguments (you are not dead, therefore talking on a cell while driving is not dangerous?), but that doesn’t change the FACT that people who talk on cell phones while driving are endangering the lives of other people and depriving them of their right to life. That is the civil rights issue here, not the “right” to talk on a cell phone.
    One might further note that driving is not a civil liberty, it’s a privilege. It’s not simply a “choice”, it’s a social contract that you will be permitted to drive only if you accept the rules of the game. The rules are there to protect the majority and sometimes that means depriving some individuals of some activities.

    We live in a group, one person’s choice affects the rest of the group. That’s just the way it is. Everybody can’t have everything. You can pretend that you live in a little libertarian bubble, where decisions and choices affect only yourself, or you can grow up and learn to share, compromise and negotiate.

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  • […] By one vote in the Senate, Oregon finally bans cell phones while driving BikePortland […]

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    Vance Longwell June 24, 2009 at 10:17 am

    rixtir – Another misnomer. DUI laws are fierce, and heavily, heavily, enforced. The act of engaging in this behavior is also socially unacceptable across a huge spectrum of people. Also, alcohol and the automobile have been sharing the world for over a century, and we have a much deeper understanding of the implicit impact. To an extent, you are preaching to the choir. I personally feel any distraction, let alone something like making a phone call, is a short-sighted, relatively selfish behavior. In reality, people’s ignorance of the importance of maintaining, just the safety equipment on their car, is infinitely more threatening to me. I assume the responsibility for many, many risks imposed upon me by other people, every time I leave my bed in the morning. I maintain that it is a fool’s errand to even consider criminalizing them all, and instead will support criminalizing the worst, implementing policy that empowers existing enforcement bodies, and urge that they use this leeway to make case-by-case decisions in an effort to avoid necessitating intrusive prohibitions. Which is pretty much what we were doing. Which also makes this inherently status-quo.

    This type of classism is getting out of control in Oregon. This law isn’t going to do anything but put another bunch of brown-skinned people into the system by providing law enforcement yet another means of probable cause. Which is really what it’s all about, right?

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    fredlf June 24, 2009 at 10:18 am

    Arguing against bike lights, Vance points out Turns out, under low-light conditions, humans are more keyed into noticing movement, than they are lights.

    That’s true, due to the biological structure of the eye and the psychology of perception. Therefore, wouldn’t a blinking, moving light, such as a light on a bicycle, be a really good way to get a human’s attention in low light?

    Funny how ideology trumps facts every time.

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    Vance Longwell June 24, 2009 at 10:22 am

    For the record, I oppose the use of a cell phone while driving every bit as much as I oppose a law prohibiting it.

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    Brad June 24, 2009 at 10:26 am

    Vance – the problem here is that cell phones have become far more sophisticated and offer more features of late. Talking – no big deal in my book. What disturbs me are the morons that simply cannot ignore their compulsion to read and write texts or watch the funny YouTube video their buddy just e-mailed to their iPhone – WHILE THEY ARE DRIVING! I know this is a crass generalization but it seems that the younger generation is incapable of ignoring any form of electronic communication for more than a few seconds and immediately answers the siren’s call without regards to their surroundings.

    Self-important businessman doesn’t frighten me. SUV driving soccer mom doesn’t scare me. Twentysomething compulsive social networker with a smart phone in the car scares the crap out of me.

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    rixtir June 24, 2009 at 10:35 am

    Vance, people drive while using cell phones. They also drive while DUI. Neither fact is a guarantee that the impaired driver will kill me. But each instance of an impaired driving meeting me on the road increases the odds that that driver will kill me. The fact that I haven’t been killed yet is utterly irrelevant when the question is whether a preventive measure will increase the odds in my favor.

    And really, the color or class of the impaired driver who hits me is the least of my concerns.

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    Hart June 24, 2009 at 10:36 am

    When you need all out, balls to the wall, utterly mesmerizing no-holds-barred golden stupid, you GOT to get yourself a Republican!

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    driveabus June 24, 2009 at 11:22 am

    This is very much a nanny state bill. Under the guise of protecting others we are being told what to do. I don’t use my cell phone while driving, either personally or professionally. (And by the way, Trimet does not allow talking or texting on a cell phone while driving. Only at a layover when bus is not in traffic).

    I do hope the bill will be applied to bicyclists also. Especially after seeing the idiot on Division on Monday weaving all over the eastbound lane talking on his cellphone, one set of fingertips on the handlebar. Not even the whole hand. Almost bumped into parked cars and moving traffic twice that I saw and was completely oblivious. But of course any accident or near miss would not be his fault would it. No responsibility there is there?

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    rixtir June 24, 2009 at 11:30 am

    Yeah, imagine that, driveabus– the state tells you what to do (e.g., no DUI, no discharge of a firearm on a crowded street, etc.). How dare the people pass laws to protect the safety of the public, eh?

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    fredlf June 24, 2009 at 12:14 pm

    I wholeheartedly agree that the law should also apply to cyclists. Frankly, I’m baffled why it doesn’t? Seems like that might have made it more palatable to those Right of reason.

    And lord knows I’ve seen a lot of bad cycling/cell-phone use…

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    driveabus June 24, 2009 at 12:53 pm

    Rixtir, No comment on the bill applying to bicyclists also? Wonder why?

    And lets talk about the helmet law for motorcyclists. Who does that protect? Other than the motorcyclist? And if helmets are required for motorcyclists, why not bicyclists. Only difference is an engine. Head injuries can be suffered from any fall.

    Fact is the helmet law protects the insurance companies from paying out large sums. And it was passed by making us believe that we all contribute to the payout through increased premiums. Well if that is true why is it not required that bicyclists have helmets too? I certainly don’t want to spend my money caring for bicyclists with head injuries that could have been prevented!! Especially when the cyclist obviously did not care enough for their own safety to take minimum precautions.

    Bicyclists make bad decisions just like motorists do. Really its time to talk about the ramifications of those poor decisions. Like weaving in and out of traffic; speeding through pedestrians, including families with small children, on the Hawthorn Bridge. Running red lights. Running stop signs. Impeding traffic. Talking on cellphones. Eating and drinking while moving (both of these are prohibited while operating a motor vehicle).

    I think individual laws are needed for each and every one of these offenses!

    If we are going to pass laws to protect the safety of the public then lets get it right and pass all those laws!!

    The problem with this forum is that it is populated by folk who think they are too damn good. They are never at fault for anything. Lord, what fools some bikers be.

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    RonC June 24, 2009 at 12:55 pm

    Studies have shown that drivers give bikers on cell phones a wider berth, so we should embrace the concept of riding while phoning as actually safer. 😉

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    Dabby June 24, 2009 at 12:57 pm

    Perhaps if Ginny Burdick had called her daughter at work for more bad legislative advice this would be different.

    Oregon does not really want to ban cell phones while driving, they just want to act like they are banning them.

    Same thing across the river in Washington.
    Except there they have actually agreed not to enforce the cell phone ban.

    Total bullshit.

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    Pete June 24, 2009 at 1:16 pm

    whatever (#28): “If you do a little bit of research, you will see that states that restrict cell phone usage while driving have not seen any significant reduction in traffic accidents.”

    Not surprising given that – like turn signal laws – they are frequently broken and almost never enforced.

    I live in California now and found out from this blog that cell phones are banned here… just about every other driver has one held to their ear. I’m honestly more scared of driving here than I am of cycling (smooth wide buffers, well-marked streets, LOTS of riders, drivers seem used to bikes, etc).

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    rixtir June 24, 2009 at 1:22 pm

    Driveabus, my reason for sticking to one subject was because I was hoping that you’d see how ridiculous it is to complain that society tells you what to do sometimes.

    Alas, that didn’t work.

    I’m sure there are people out there who’d prefer that society didn’t tell them that they can’t murder other people. Some other people would prefer that society didn’t tell them that they can’t rob other people. Some people would prefer that society didn’t tell them that they can’t molest children.

    But the majority of people have enough sense to not really give a damn that some self-centered sociopath doesn’t want to be told that harming others is wrong.

    Which is why I don’t really give a damn if some self-centered sociopath complains that society is telling him/her not to drive impaired.

    Now, to answer your question, the law applies to “motor vehicle” operators. That should exclude bicycle operators, but the Oregon Supreme Court has foolishly decided that the term “motor vehicle” includes bicycles, so the law may well apply to cyclists.

    Now, if you care to explain to the class how the physics of a multi-ton vehicle traveling somewhere between 25 MPH and 65 MPH are equivalent to those of a ~200 pound vehicle traveling at between 10 MPH and 25 MPH, I’m sure we’d all be able to take more seriously your implied proposition that the risks of a cell-yakking motorist are equivalent to the risks of a cell-yakking cyclist.

    Not that I really care if cyclists are banned from using cell phones, mind you, although that ban would be a nanny-state law, because its only real purpose would be to protect cyclists from themselves. But I do care when silly comparisons are made between motorists who endanger others and cyclists who endanger themselves.

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    Pete June 24, 2009 at 1:23 pm

    driveabus (#50): “The problem with this forum is that it is populated by folk who think they are too damn good. They are never at fault for anything.”

    As opposed to all those other Internet forums, where everyone admits how wrong they are?? Opinions are like a..holes, everyone’s got one. The Internet just lets us anonymously display them! The opinions, that is… 🙂

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    RonC June 24, 2009 at 1:54 pm

    rixter #54 said “Not that I really care if cyclists are banned from using cell phones, mind you, although that ban would be a nanny-state law, because its only real purpose would be to protect cyclists from themselves.”

    That’s not entirely true. If drivers need to alter their behavior to avoid distracted riders, it will certainly increase their anxiety level and tension on the road. Makes their job of safely guiding their multi-ton WMD that much more difficult. In my mind, that’s not a good thing.

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    fredlf June 24, 2009 at 3:18 pm

    Hmm, I don’t know, Rixter. I think one can reasonably argue that a cyclist is less dangerous to others when drunk/cell-phoning than a motorist. But it’s still quite possible to have a serious accident while trying to avoid such a DUI/DWY (driving while yakking) cyclist. Not to mention the trauma that comes from hitting and injuring someone, even if it’s in no way your fault.

    Whatever the source, it should be illegal to use the public right-of-way if you are seriously impaired.

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    rixtir June 24, 2009 at 4:06 pm

    Yeah, I agree that it’s not a good thing to be operating a vehicle while impaired, even if the vehicle is relatively harmless.

    I just have to shake my head though when people try to make silly comparisons between bikes and, say, SUVs, as if the risk represented is roughly equivalent. It’s not equivalent, and arguments that motorists shouldn’t be subject to “DWI by cell” laws because cyclists may or may not be subject to the same laws are very poorly reasoned.

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    Pancho June 25, 2009 at 8:57 am

    Yippi,
    Seriously Ive been hit (once) and I allmost get hit everyday Yes “everyday” by someone Talking or texting on there cell while driving. I’m so happy this bill passed, this will save lives and make the streets safer for everyone. Thankyou Oregon!!!

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    calgary rob June 25, 2009 at 9:49 am

    I am surprised by the Primary/Secondary violation designations. Canadian courts have allow law enforcement more latitude for checking vehicles. In Canada you can be stopped to ensure you are sober and have all your documents, the courts have rules this to be a minor infringement of rights, but still acceptable. That being said the police can’t search your car or detain you for a lengthy purpose for no reason…

    An offence is an offence and police should not need 2 or more to make the stop…

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    rixtir June 25, 2009 at 10:00 am

    I’d be happy too, if this bill actually made it illegal to talk on a cell while driving– but it doesn’t do that. It’s still perfectly legal for anybody to use a cell while driving. Like Dabby said (post #52), “Oregon does not really want to ban cell phones while driving, they just want to act like they are banning them.”

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    wsbob June 25, 2009 at 11:27 am

    Cell phones may be becoming an essential support device for many people in this age we live in…much as is the particular mode of transportation people choose to get themselves around, whether that’s a train, bus, car or bike.

    If a person carrying their cell phone in their car with them as they drive, gets a call related to an emergency situation, and in taking the call, handles the phone in such a way as to continue to competently operate the vehicle as they drive, is it right to regard such a person as posing a danger to others for the simple matter of operating a cell phone while driving?

    Perhaps this new law should have had a exception for use of hand-held phones in emergency only situations. ’emergency’ means something different to everyone, so that criteria presents it’s own problem.

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    rixtir June 25, 2009 at 11:34 am

    Pull over and talk, hang up and drive.

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    Eric on Blue Island June 25, 2009 at 11:42 am

    Anything that provides a means for getting routinely inattentive drivers off the road is OK. If you can’t take the responsibility that is alleged to come with a driver’s license, then just don’t drive. Then you can talk on the phone all you want with no worries about imaginary nanny states.

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    wsbob June 25, 2009 at 3:18 pm

    Emergency. If the matter of the call received allows the person receiving it to take the time to find a place to pull over and talk, hang up and drive, it’s probably not enough of an emergency to justify continuing to drive while talking on the cell phone.

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    rixtir June 25, 2009 at 4:03 pm

    Right. And unless the person receiving the call is a 911 operator, is it truly an “emergency”?

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    wsbob June 25, 2009 at 4:53 pm

    Would you suggest that as criteria for exempting from the ban, calls made by a person with a hand-held phone while driving? So, ‘All hand-held phone calls made or received (by people that aren’t cops, EMT’s, etc) while driving are illegal except for emergency calls made to 911’?

    No other emergencies are sufficient to justify hand-held phone use while driving?

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    ec June 25, 2009 at 9:06 pm

    If motorists are unhappy about this bill and say the same law should be true for bikes. I’d have to say, yes…equal rights, equal laws, and equal enforcement for all. I personally don’t have a problem with cyclists being held to the same standard as motorists.

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