With the stroke of midnight and the beginning of 2010 Oregon joined the growing list of states restricting the use of cellphones by people driving cars. In Oregon and around the country distracted driving has emerged over the last two or three years as a serious issue of public concern. The interesting question may, in fact, be why it took so long for this to happen. As the New York Times link below indicates, concern about the issue is not particularly new. AAA issued its first warning that drivers ought to pull over before picking up the phone in 1984 (yes, 1984).
Oregon’s new distracted driving law requires drivers to use a hands-free device, such as a Bluetooth headset, when making and receiving calls. Telephone use by drivers under the age of 18 is banned entirely. Also banned (for drivers of all ages) is texting while behind the wheel. More details about the new law can be found here.
While there have been a number of media reports during the last few weeks of brisk headset sales around Oregon, it will probably take some time before the real impact of the Oregon distracted driving law becomes clear. Anecdotal evidence from other states with distracted driving laws indicates that enforcement regimes vary widely (for example: New York, one of the first states to enact a distracted driving law, has a reputation for relatively relaxed enforcement while Washington DC is said to be unusually strict).
The fact that Oregon now restricts distracted driving may also make the issue the subject of more civil actions around the state. If you have been injured by someone who was inappropriately using a cellphone behind the wheel, consulting with a Portland distracted driving lawyer should be among your top priorities. Even if the police have not issued a criminal citation to an Oregon distracted driver you, as the victim, may be entitled to a substantial settlement.
Salem Statesman-Journal: ‘Hang up and drive’ starts Friday
New York Times Interactive: Timeline: The Selling of the Cellphone