cell phone law

What you should know about Oregon’s new distracted driving law

Avatar by on October 16th, 2017 at 1:59 pm

Distracted driver being distracted.jpg

(Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Our legal contributor Ray Thomas is an author and lawyer based in Portland.

On October 1, 2017, Oregon’s new distracted driving law went into effect. The law has an expanded scope and raises the penalties for violations. Here are a few things every Oregon bicycle rider should know about it.

People who walk and bike know all too well the risks drivers pose as they stare into screens and attempt to drive around us. Since we are not encapsulated inside a steel compartment looking at the world through safety glass, we see the shocking number of people who try to maneuver their cars and trucks down the streets while completely tuned out to anything but what is on the screen in front of them.

And the statistics confirm how deadly this behavior is: More than 4,000 crashes were caused by distraction in Oregon in 2014. And between 2011 and 2015 there were 54 fatalities and 15,150 injuries in Oregon caused by distracted drivers (see the Oregon Department of Transportation 2014 Oregon Traffic Crash Summary).
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Undercover distracted driving sting leads to 107 stops in just 5 hours

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) by on October 13th, 2017 at 2:01 pm

Like shooting fish in a barrel.
(Photo: Washington County Sheriff’s Office)

Just how rampant is dangerous driving and law-breaking among drivers? Our latest example comes from Washington County where sheriff deputies in Aloha went undercover to help educate the public about Oregon’s new hands-free driving law.

In five hours of work they stopped 73 people for violating the new law, passing out 11 citations and 62 warnings.

The Sheriff’s office called it a “non-traditional enforcement mission” (they prefer “mission” instead of sting) because they used undercover deputies. The plainclothes deputies stood on the sidewalk at intersections as “spotters” and would then tip-off other deputies when they saw violations.

Oregon’s new distracted driving law (HB 2597) went into effect October 1st (we have an in-depth post about it from our legal expert Ray Thomas coming Monday). It covers many more behaviors than the old law (which only focused on cell phones) and also applies when you are stopped in traffic.
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Phone use study finds Oregon drivers are “least distracted” in America

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) by on April 18th, 2017 at 9:22 am

Using a cell phone while driving is a dangerous, selfish, and illegal behavior that has become far too common.
(Photo by J. Maus/BikePortland)

via Streetsblog USA

A company that uses sensors in smartphones to study driving behavior has revealed startling — yet unsurprising — facts about Americans’ selfish attitudes while behind the wheel of their cars: People use their phones during 88 out of 100 trips. When extrapolated out for the entire U.S. population, that number shoots up to about 600 million distracted trips per day.

In what they bill as the “largest and most robust driver phone use study done to date on the planet,” Zendrive analyzed three million drivers and 570 million trips over a three-month period.

While what they found is unnerving to say the least, Oregon drivers came in as the “least distracted” in the entire country. By calculating the average amount of time drivers use their phones everyday divided by the average time they drive everyday, Zendrive determined that Oregon drivers used their phones while driving 3.7 percent of the time. The most distracted state was Vermont, whose drivers used their phones 7.4 percent of the time.
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Oregon Senate prez wants distracted driving penalties on par with drunk driving

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) 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:[Read more…]

Oregon Senate votes (yet again) to let cabbies use hand-held phones while driving

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) by on April 28th, 2015 at 10:54 am

Ride along in a Radio Cab-1

Should they be allowed to use phones while driving?
(Photo by J. Maus/BikePortland)

For the second legislative session in a row, the Oregon Senate has voted in favor of a bill that would allow taxicab operators to use hand-held cell phones while driving.

Oregon’s existing cell phone law (ORS 811.507) permits the use of hands-free mobile devices while driving, but taxi operators want to be added to the list of exceptions for hand-held phone use that already includes police officers, public safety workers, farm equipment operators, transit workers, public utility workers, tow truck operators, HAM radio operators, and others.

Senate Bill 167 passed by a vote of 18-12 last month (all 12 “no” votes were from Democrats). A similar bill passed the Senate in 2013, but failed to get a vote in the House.[Read more…]

Talking while driving doesn’t boost crash rates, surprising new study finds

Michael Andersen (Contributor) by on August 9th, 2013 at 10:03 pm


Not really a risk?
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

What if talking on a cell phone behind the wheel isn’t so dangerous after all?

What if people who are on the phone naturally tend to drive more carefully, essentially canceling out any danger?

That’s the startling implication of a cleverly designed study released Thursday that hasn’t yet gotten much attention in the media. Its authors, a professor of social and decision sciences and an economist, readily admit that their findings seem contrary to some (though not all) previous work in the area.

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Oregon Senate says cab drivers should be exempt from cell phone law

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) by on March 22nd, 2013 at 7:55 am

“These are people who are struggling and their livings are made by whether or not they can pick folks up… This is their life.”
— Sen. Larry George, the bill’s sponsor

The Oregon legislature made a strange move on Monday that is very likely to make Portland roads less safe for everyone. By a vote of 19-11, the Senate passed a bill that adds yet another exception to the state’s existing cell phone law. Senate Bill 294, sponsored by Senator Larry George (R-Sherwood), allows a taxicab driver to use a “mobile communication device”, a.k.a. cell phone, while driving.

This is despite widespread evidence that using a cell phone while driving is very dangerous.

SB 294’s sponsor, Sen. Larry George (yes that Senator) got all 14 of his fellow Republicans to join him in supporting the taxicab exemption. The five Democrats who voted in favor of the bill included; Lee Beyer, Chris Edwards, Betsy Johnson, Ernie Roblan, and Chip Shields.

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Legal in “frontier counties”? Changes proposed for Oregon’s cell phone law

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) by on January 14th, 2011 at 12:31 pm


On a rural road in a “frontier” county
this would be perfectly legal if HB 2507 passes.
(Photo © J. Maus)

In 2009, the Oregon State Legislature passed a law (ORS 811.507) that makes it illegal to use a hand-held cell phone while driving (hands-free headsets are allowed). The law was great news for traffic safety advocates who are well aware of the clear and present dangers posed by distracted vehicle operators. This session there are four bills that seek to make amendments to that law — and surprisingly, two of them would actually make it weaker.[Read more…]

Friday Opinion: Time to get tough on distracted driving

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) by on August 20th, 2010 at 10:00 am

The (illegal) use of mobile phones while operating a vehicle is way too common in Portland and more needs to be done to raise awareness of this and other behaviors that lead to distracted driving.

I’m sure there was a brief period after January 1, 2010 — when our state’s cell phone law went into effect — when people focused on driving and not talking. But my first-hand observations tell me that texting and talking on cell phones while driving and riding is out of control. Not a day goes by when I don’t see people doing this extremely dangerous activity.[Read more…]

Does Oregon’s new cell phone law apply to people on bikes?

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) by on February 9th, 2010 at 11:38 am

Cell phones and bikes
— like riding blind!
(Photo © J. Maus)

Since Oregon enacted their new cell phone law on January 1st, many people have asked me if it applies to people riding bicycles. My previous opinion was that it doesn’t, but a closer look at the law now has me less certain — and more confused.

The new law applies to people, “operating a motor vehicle while using a mobile communication device.” Since bicycles are not “motor vehicles,” I initially assumed this meant that bicycles would be exempt. But I don’t like to operate on assumptions, especially when it comes to bike laws, so I asked the office of State Representative Carolyn Tomei — the legislator who pushed the cell phone bill — for a clarification.
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