Oregon’s Cellphone Laws For Drivers Tighten Up

Oregon lawmakers recently strengthened safeguards for travelers on the state's roads by updating the state law banning cell phone use while driving.

Dangers Of Distracted Driving

According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Board, in 2010 over 3,000 people died in accidents involving distracted driving. The NHTSB has recommended a ban on all drivers' use of all portable electronic devices regardless of whether drivers use a headset, another hands-free method or use hand-held devices. The Board recognizes that a full ban on the use of electronic gadgets behind the wheel isn't likely to be adopted by most states; an NHTSB spokesperson noted that a big change in public perception and attitude toward cell phone use while driving will be needed before any sweeping recommendations will have an impact.

Efforts To Quell Cellphone Use

Government sources list 10 states that ban all use of handheld cell phones by drivers. Thirty-eight states plus the Territory of Guam and the District of Columbia, have laws that prohibit all drivers from texting.

Oregon's old law allowed the use of hand-held cell phones if a driver needed to remain in contact for his or her job. Many violators escaped prosecution under the old law by telling law enforcement officers that they were making or receiving a work-related call when they were apprehended. Their deception may not have violated the letter of the law, but it certainly flouted the spirit of it, which was expressly to allow emergency aid workers, firefighters and police to use their phones on the job without running afoul of the statute.

Under the new law, all Oregon drivers over age 18 can use hands-free phones, but use of hand-held phones is limited to roadside assistance workers and emergency responders. Texting is not allowed for anyone, period. Drivers under age 18 may not use any phones or other electronic devices while behind the wheel.

Oregonians crossing the state line into California, Washington or Nevada should continue to use only hands-free devices and avoid texting. Idaho law does not explicitly prohibit cell phone use, but any distracting factors are listed when an officer writes up an incident report. Idaho drivers are not permitted to text.

Relief For Accident Victims

With growing awareness of distracted driving, it is increasingly likely that a driver distracted by a cell phone will be considered negligent in an accident. Those who are hurt in an accident where a driver was using a cell phone stand to recover damages. A personal injury attorney will be invaluable in pursuing compensation for a victim's pain and suffering, lost wages and medical costs.