Home Opinion Editorials Here’s wishing you safe phoning and driving in New Year
Here’s wishing you safe phoning and driving in New Year
Head’s up, Oregon drivers. It’s time to hang up and drive. As of Jan.
1, law enforcement can pull drivers over and give them a $142 ticket
for driving while texting or talking if they lack a hands-free cell
phone device. Simply put, Oregon drivers will not be able to text
message, and cell phone use will be limited to adults using hands-free
A drive down Island Avenue a week before the law goes into effect shows that many people will have to change their habits. Hand-held cell phone use while driving has become ubiquitous not only in the big cities but in every town in Northeast Oregon. Most drivers have stories of close calls due to people yakking on their cell phones and not paying enough attention to the road. The new law makes hand holding a cell phone while driving a primary offense. Oregon is the first state in the nation to go this route. The bottom line is, a driver can be pulled over who hasn’t committed any other traffic offense. In other words, drivers don’t have to be speeding, driving erratically, driving drunk, have a headlight in their automobile out or anything else to get pulled over.
The law goes like this: if you are 18 or older, you must use a hands-free accessory that allows you to keep both hands on the wheel while driving. If you are younger than 18, you may not use a wireless device in any case except an emergency or farming or agricultural operations. Exceptions include emergencies, safety workers and emergency service personnel. Truckers should also be happy to know that CB radios are also exempted.
Oregon is the last West Coast state to pass such a law. The first year the law went into effect in Washington, 2008, despite its being a secondary offense there, residents paid more than $123,000 in tickets. That’s true even though Washington law enforcement had to have others reason to pull drivers over.
The Oregon law is a bipartisan effort aimed at public safety concerns. Rep. Carolyn Tomei, D-Milwaukie, and Rep. Sal Esquivel, R-Medford, co-sponsored the legislation. Tomei noted that each year in America 2,600 people die in accidents related to cell phone use. Another 330,000 people are injured. Esquivel, meanwhile, said that driving while using a cell phone or text messaging is the equivalent of driving drunk.
Studies prove the danger. A University of Massachusetts study, for example, showed that texting while driving was equivalent to driving with three or four drinks under the belt. As texting is gaining in popularity, more of it is going on while driving, with more accidents resulting.
People who want to chat or text while driving should comply with the new law for their own safety, for that of their passengers and for that of everyone else on the road. As of Jan. 1, it’s time to hang up and drive.