New Year, New Laws

A new year begins on Wednesday and, with it, a collection of new laws take effect. From my perspective as Portland distracted driving lawyer one of the most important new measures involves the tightening of our state’s laws concerning texting and the use of cellphones while driving.

Concerning distracted driving, the big news is that fines for the offense are about to rise significantly. When the law went into effect four years ago the fines were modest, topping out at only $90. Starting January 1, however, “texting or talking on a cell phone while driving will fetch higher fines – at least $142 and up to $500” according to The Oregonian. The higher fines are good news for all of us who are concerned with the issue of Oregon distracted driving and want to see more done about it. Simply put, a potential $500 fine is a much more significant deterrent than $90. Oregon has long been one of the nation’s leaders on this issue, and it is good to see our state leading again.

Some of the other notable measures that take effect this week include a statewide ban on the use of tanning beds by minors without parental permission, a measure allowing landlords to require tenants to maintain renter’s liability insurance and a law preventing employers from requiring access to the social media accounts of employees and job applicants.

The tanning bed measure might seem odd to some, but it closes an important loophole that allowed potential injuries to minors to take place when salon operators put their own commercial interests ahead of children’s safety. It will be interesting to watch and see how the case law regarding negligence develops in reference to this new statute. Much the same can be said of the renter’s liability insurance provision, which has the potential to empower landlords at the expense of tenants. Finally, after a year in which revelations of spying by the federal government dominated national and international news it is nice to see the State of Oregon striking a small blow in favor of each individual’s right to privacy.

Happy New Year to all!

The Oregonian: Oregon laws on driving, teen tanning, medical marijuana, others take effect Jan. 1