Oregon Distracted Driving Questions Raised by New Technologies

A fascinating article published in Slate a few days ago raises some intriguing questions regarding Oregon distracted driving laws and some of the latest technologies making their way into our cars and onto our cellphones.

The article focuses on Siri, the computerized ‘assistant’ bundled into the latest version of the iPhone. As the author notes, “Apple advertises Siri as a way to get stuff done while you’re otherwise occupied,” and notes that the company’s videos show people using the application while, among other things, driving.

The legal question for Oregonians and others raised by the article is simple: do distracted driving laws, like Oregon’s, which ban texting while driving extend to a text-by-voice service? “Voice texting could be illegal in many places,” the piece notes, because of wording in the relevant legislation that makes “it illegal to ‘send’ texts,” or, in some cases, prohibits any form of electronic communication. “Each of these versions would make Siri-based texting verboten, because even if you dictate a message, you’re still, technically, sending some kind of electronic communication.”
There is, of course, the separate issue of how distracting operating Siri, or some similar voice-recognition application, may be. Reprogramming a car’s GPS is not, presently, illegal while the vehicle is moving – but that does not mean it is not almost as dangerous as texting. A related article published in Slate around the same time as the one cited here noted that the trend toward touch-screen radios and CD players in cars also raises distracted driving issues since these often require more of a driver’s attention to operate than old-style analogue push-button radio/CD players.

The lesson for Oregon distracted driving attorneys and their clients is that all of us need to rethink the basic idea of Portland distracted driving. When seeking justice in the wake of a Portland, Eugene or Salem car accident the specifics of Oregon distracted law are important, but broader questions of negligence also often need to be considered. We need to ask whether or not motorists in particular situations were operating their vehicles in a responsible manner and hold to account those who fail to do so.

Slate: Siri behind the wheel