The Worst Day of the Year Ride is February 11th

Portland Police issue 384 citations in first month of cell phone law

Posted by on February 22nd, 2010 at 1:05 pm

(Photo © J. Maus)

The Portland Police Bureau issued 384 citations and 31 warnings for violation of Oregon’s new cell phone law during the month of January. The law, which makes it a primary offense (meaning cops do not need any other reason to pull you over) to hold a cell phone to your ear while driving, went into effect on January 1st.

Police Bureau Traffic Division Captain Eric Hendricks shared these statistics with BikePortland and said that his officers are “having to look pretty hard for violators.”

“Our officers are looking for violators of this law but apparently more drivers must be in compliance as we are not seeing as many folks driving and using their cell phones. We hope this trend continues.”

A ticket will set you back $142, but Hendricks says his officers are referring violators to the Share the Road Safety Class. “We [Traffic Court judges and the Traffic Division] think the educational value drivers obtain from attending the class outweighs any financial sanction a violator might receive from a guilty plea.”

Earlier this month I wondered whether or not this law applied to people riding bicycles. Hendricks doesn’t think so. “As I read the bill it applies to the operators of motor vehicles only. I read nothing… that refers to bicycles.”

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  • MeghanH February 22, 2010 at 1:13 pm

    Was passed this morning by a guy first talking on, and then texting with, his cellphone on SE Clinton…I have a feeling that compliance with the law will wane over time.

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  • John Lascurettes February 22, 2010 at 1:21 pm

    I haven’t seen too much compliance myself, but I can see where police might not catch more than a fraction of the violators; they have to be at the right place at the right time and at the right viewing angle. That, and they don’t see as well from their cars into other cars as we do from our bikes.

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  • Jackattak February 22, 2010 at 1:40 pm

    How many of them were Tased?

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  • AaronF February 22, 2010 at 1:55 pm

    Getting Tased while talking on a cell phone is the worst!

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  • Nick V February 22, 2010 at 2:09 pm

    I’ll bet officers on bikes would catch more offenders.

    Last driver/cell phone user I saw was Friday afternoon on SE 21st and Woodward or thereabouts. I’ve seen a handful of others since January 1.

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  • Dominic February 22, 2010 at 2:17 pm

    In regards to bicyclists being susceptible to this law… I don’t see why there would be any difference? Aren’t cyclists equal roadway users with the same rights and responsibilities of drivers of vehicles?

    While a cyclist on a cell phone may not be as big of a direct threat as the driver of a Tacoma would be.. but clueless distracted cyclists are unpredictable and dangerous nonetheless.

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  • Anonymous February 22, 2010 at 2:44 pm

    I hope the enforcement is kept up and does not slack off as the law has been around longer.

    So I am concerned that if I am hit by someone talking on a cell phone, they will just say they were on their hands free device (even if they were not) and I (or my family, depending on the injuries) will have no recourse.

    I think that cell phone use while driving is a major safety issue for all roadway users.

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  • matthew v February 22, 2010 at 3:03 pm

    how about an enforcement operation like the police did at ladd’s circle and near burnside/vancouver for folks running stop signs? high visability operations like this often get more media coverage and send a message that there will be a consequence for your actions. just sayin….

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  • Dan H February 22, 2010 at 3:32 pm

    One curious unintended consequence of this law that I’ve noticed several times is motorists will pull over to talk on the phone wherever, often completely obstructing bicycle lanes and portions of the road.

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  • bvitamine February 22, 2010 at 3:35 pm

    Good for this ban – and it BETTER be enforced on both cars and bikers. Drivers using cel phones have been shown to be just as bad a drunk drivers – and no matter what mode of transportation – can cause needless deaths. Heck, in New York they’re even considering a ban on iPod listeners since so many have been hit walking blindly into oncoming traffic.

    I’ve seen more than a few bikers talking on cel phones while driving – and they weave all over the place and blow stop-signs at a high rate. Sure look like drunk drivers to me…

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  • peejay February 22, 2010 at 3:39 pm


    except the Ladd Circle sting has shown to be utterly ineffective at whatever its goal is — other than raising revenue — and whether the PPB actually clears a profit on it is debatable when you factor the daily costs of seven motorcycle officers who do the sting.

    I’d like enforcement of the cell phone law to be effective, but I don’t think it will.

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  • oliver February 22, 2010 at 4:38 pm

    legal or not, I don’t think anyone should show any more tolerance for people cycling and using their phone than driving.

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  • naess February 22, 2010 at 4:42 pm

    i still see several people using them though, but then again how long have the speed limits been in effect and people still speed.

    on the plus side though, i know several people that have either switched over to hands-free devices or have stopped using their phones in the car completely.

    #11: how are the enforcement actions in any way close to a sting operation?

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  • suburban February 22, 2010 at 4:51 pm

    Don’t mobile-phone-talkin’-drivers waive their right of way? This has been my experience as a fellow road user. I’d like to see stats on crash-ups where one or both drivers was having a chat at impact, over the last 10 years. It is also against the law to jam mobile phone signals, even for few seconds, so don’t do that

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  • DDDeebo February 22, 2010 at 6:10 pm

    This is an ill-conceived law people. Studies have repeatedly shown that drivers are not distracted by the act of holding a phone to their heads. They are distracted by the actual conversation since they are present with the topic of discussion and not with what is going on in front of them (like daydreaming). The way this law is phrased you can wear a phone headset and be totally legal. Sooo… the Oregon legislature has passed a law creating arbitrary criminals which does not accomplish the goals that it set out to accomplish. If you’re going to go through the trouble of passing a law at least do some basic research to make it worth the taxpayer’s while.

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  • Joe R. February 22, 2010 at 8:11 pm

    While riding the MAX each morning (and passing most cars on the road), I haven’t noticed too many people with a phone to their head. Some, but few.. I used to see almost every driver talking on the phone. I’d say the law has had an effect.

    However, I did drive past a bicyclist on the phone riding in a narrow bike lane on NE Multnomah. Scary!

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  • Joe Rowe February 22, 2010 at 8:42 pm

    speaking as the real joe R… Driving while on your cell is a significant risk. It should be a great source of revenue. I’ve seen no drop in cell use from car drivers. THe more tickets the better.

    As for cops who setup stings to bust cyclists who blow stop signs in Ladds Edition neighborhood. While those may annoy you, they don’t pose any significant risk.

    Would you rather step out in front of 100 bikes in Ladd’s or 100 drivers in Ladd’s. ? ?

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  • jeneraldisarray February 22, 2010 at 9:03 pm

    DDDeebo, I absolutely concur with you insofar as it’s unfortunate that this law doesn’t address the root of this problem: people engaged in conversation are not fully engaged in the act of driving (or cycling). The law certainly doesn’t go far enough, no matter whether I measure by my own personal standards or by those of reputable scientists.

    However, isn’t there some value in enacting a law that makes it less convenient (albeit slightly, given that all new cell phones come with a handsfree kit) to talk while driving?

    I think that talking on the telephone while driving is a behavior born out a strange confluence of novelty, unnecessary convenience, and time constraints. As a society, we never quite got around to the idea of clarifying what behaviors can be safely accomplished while driving. We seem to have been distracted by the “can we?”, ignoring the “should we?”

    Enacting this particular law might have been hasty and a tad ill-conceived, but at least we are talking about it now and having the public conversation that can result in amendments and revisions to the law in the future.

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  • cell phone abuser February 22, 2010 at 9:58 pm

    I’ve got these giant rubber bands I used for a science project back in high school. I strap the cell phone to my head while biking and driving. HA! Too bad I don’t have anyone to talk to, on account of being a dork.

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  • Jim O'Horo February 22, 2010 at 10:50 pm

    We here in WA are so much more fortunate than you OR cyclists. Our legislature saw fit to ban ALL cell phone use while driving, so it’s covered whether hands-free or not. Of course our legislature in its infinite wisdom decided to make it a secondary offense, so drivers know the police can’t do anything to enforce unless there’s some other violation. They’re all driving around with cells stuck to their ears. While walking I almost got run over by one about a week ago.

    Maybe some day one of the 2 legislatures will get it right.

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  • wsbob February 23, 2010 at 12:30 am

    $142 is easy pickin’ for the cops. So is
    $240 for anybody that thinks traveling through stop signs without looking for a cop down the block.

    I’d tend to think a lot of people that get those tickets are apt to be just a little more more hesitant to commit either of those violations after the fact. Of course, there are a lot of people that have so much money that neither of those two dollar amounts is much more than pocket money.

    This law likely won’t discourage them from yakking on the phone or rolling through stop signs with little regard for anyone or anything but themselves.

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  • Anonymous February 23, 2010 at 6:56 am

    Stop calling it a sting.

    It’s called law enforcement.

    No one was enticed into running the stop sign.

    Everyone caught made a conscious decision to run that stop sign.

    Suck it up and take the punishment.

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  • a.O February 23, 2010 at 8:23 am

    Since when has the police giving out citations ever stopped people from breaking traffic laws?

    Virtually every motorist on the roads speeds during the majority of each trip s/he takes. And speeding is the most cited violation.

    There aren’t enough police on the roads to cite enough violations in a way that would have an overall deterrent effect. Sure, a few people might slow down for a while after they get a ticket, but it makes little or no difference overall.

    Start thinking differently if you want to solve these problems. The Legislature ought to know better.

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  • Ryan Good February 23, 2010 at 9:45 am

    I almost got run down this morning by a guy who was texting and driving in the bike lane. He was holding his phone down very low so it wasn’t visible. He was so focused on breaking the law and doing it secretly that he never saw me, even after I and (a very vocal) cyclist behind me yelled at him. He then proceeded to make a sharp right without stopping at a four-way stop intersection. Clearly the law doesn’t apply to that guy.

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  • Jim O'Horo February 23, 2010 at 1:53 pm

    Here are links to a couple of recent articles from the Columbian. The first is about the hit & run killing of Gordon Patterson last fall by a motorist who was texting while driving. Important points in the article: may be the first WA conviction for killing someone for texting while driving and some surveys indicate teens are major texters while driving. 2nd article includes interviews with teens from Hudson’s Bay High School where Mr. Patterson was a popular teacher. Some teens are quoted as stating they will continue texting while driving even though one of their favorite teachers was killed by a texting fellow student. shocking!

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  • Ivana Tikle February 23, 2010 at 5:49 pm

    As I’m on the road, on my bike, I see soooo many people on the phone (scares the @#*% outta me because they’re not paying attention to their surroundings!)

    Can someone invent a small paintball launcher to fit on the handlebars to launch at their window to get their attention and tell them to hang up and pay attention?

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  • Jim O'Horo February 24, 2010 at 1:20 pm

    wsbob @ # 21:

    Hi ws:

    If cell phone use & DUI are equally dangerous, then they should have equal penalties. Does anyone know the fine for first-time DUI? Bet that would get their attention!

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  • Jim O'Horo February 24, 2010 at 1:21 pm

    a.O. @ # 23:

    Hi a.O.:

    I agree that the cell phone laws are a poor solution to the problem, particularly since both are flawed, but what would you suggest as an alternative? I can conceive of some technological solutions, but those would certainly be heavily resisted by the cell industry and difficult to get written into law. I don’t see just letting nature take its course as an acceptable response. People are dying because of this, and often it’s not the ones misusing the technology. The news article cited above shows that a significant number of cell abusers will continue their abuse even though they understand the danger; talking and object lessons don’t seem effective. What’s left?

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