Oregon Distracted Driving Loophole Closed

The New Year brought with it quiet news of an important development in the battle against Oregon distracted driving. Beginning this month, Oregon drivers stopped by police for using a handset while driving will no longer be able to avoid the two-year-old Oregon distracted driving law’s penalties by claiming that they were making a work-related call.

The language of the original bill passed by the legislature and signed into law by the governor allowed an exception for use of a handheld cellphone by an Oregon driver if the call in question “is necessary for the person’s job,” as the Los Angeles Times writes. This was arguably intended to be a way to protect police and other emergency services personnel whose jobs often require the use of a cellphone or hand-held radio.

In practice, however, it developed into a glaring loophole. As the Gresham Outlook noted in a recent editorial, the work exception “was that annoying escape route for ticketed drivers who used the ‘I was on a work call’ defense to get out of paying fines.”
We can all be happy that the Oregon legislature has moved to close this loophole. The fact that they have done so does not, however, make the problem of distracted driving go away – either here in Oregon or in the country as a whole. As the LA Times notes, a number of new distracted driving laws are taking effect around the country this month, even as the head of the National Transportation Safety Board is urging a nationwide ban on handheld cellphone use by drivers. Because driving is regulated by states a national ban would be difficult to institute – but not impossible. The article notes that the federal government used its authority over interstate commerce this month to put in place a ban on handheld cellphone use that “will affect an estimated 4 million commercial drivers, according to the federal motor carrier safety administration, which instituted the ban.”
While some insist on driving dangerously it is comforting to know that our courts and legal system are here to hold Oregon’s reckless drivers accountable for their actions. A Portland distracted driving lawyer can help victims and their families obtain the justice they deserve in the wake of Oregon distracted driving crashes.

Gresham Outlook: Legislature wisely hangs up on the cell phone loophole

Los Angeles Times: New laws crack down on distracted driving