Oregon Texting Laws

Oregon Distracted Driving Laws

  1. Handheld ban for all drivers (Primary Law).
  2. Ban on all cell phone (handheld and hands-free) for novice drivers (Primary Law).
  3. Ban on texting for all drivers (Primary Law).

Oregon’s Texting While Driving Stand

Oregon Texting and Driving Legislation

Oregon has recently changed its driving laws to eliminate a loophole that allowed drivers to use a handheld cell phone for work-related calls. The January 1, 2012 change in the law came as a result of complaints by law enforcement officers that distracted drivers were having their tickets thrown out because of the “work call” excuse. One area paper compared the loophole to a “get-out-of-jail-free card.”

Current Driving Regulations

Currently, the state of Oregon has completely banned drivers’ use of handheld cell phones. All text messaging is banned as well. Drivers over 18 years old are allowed to talk on their cell phones while using a hands-free attachment. Drivers under 18 years old who hold intermediate licenses or learner’s permits are prohibited from using cell phones in any capacity, even with hands-free devices. The fine for violations of this law is a $142 fine plus costs.

One Oregon state representative, Republican Andy Olsen, is in the process of constructing a plan that would benefit drivers who do not receive citations related to cell phone use. In his plan, Oregon residents will be able to remove a driving violation from their record each year that they do not get a cell phone citation.

News from 2011 Distracted Driving Legislation

The city of Portland has plans to crack down on all driver safety concerns this summer, but the police department there will specifically focus on cell phone usage violations. A Portland Bureau of Transportation representative told the public that the crackdown will not be about increasing the number of tickets written or trying to catch people using cell phones improperly; instead, it will be focused on educating drivers about the hazards of distracted driving and informing the public about the new legislation. During the announcement, Portland’s mayor called cell phone use behind the wheel the way to turn a vehicle into a dangerous weapon.

State Representative Vicki Berger is the one responsible for initiating the House Bill 3186 that plugged some of the loopholes in the state’s 2009 driving laws. She was motivated to action when an accident in her home area of Salem involved a texting driver killing a pedestrian. The legislation did not pass without some criticism, however. One opponent of bill 3186 felt that the merits of the bill were outweighed by the amount of time and effort it would take to enforce such laws. It has been the public that opposed the other new bill; bicyclists have complained to lawmakers about the ban on listening devices.

New 2011 Legislation

The most noted change in 2011 legislation was the approval of House Bill 3186, which removed an exception in previous legislation that allowed Oregon drivers to use cell phones for work purposes. The bill also clarified the language about texting to note that it is prohibited in all cases. House Bill 3186 was approved by a 39 to 17 vote in the House on May 4th and by the Senate with a 17 to 12 vote on June 13th. The Senate requested that the House amend the bill to provide an exemption for vital public workers. That amendment was approved by the House on June 16th, and the governor signed the bill on June 28th.

Another bill, House Bill 2602, was discussed by the Judiciary Committee. This bill would prohibit bicyclists from using any form of listening devices, such as an MP2 player or cell phone. Bicycle riders who violated this bill would receive a call D violation and be fined up to $90. There has been no activity on this bill since January.

News from 2009 Distracted Driving Legislation

Oregon law enforcement officers share concerns about the wording of the bill that appears to create a loophole. House Bill 2377 states that drivers can use a cell phone for work use if driving the vehicle is part of the person’s job. While the intent of the wording was to allow an exception for delivery and taxi cab drivers, many members of the public were using the wording to get out of tickets.

State Representative Carolyn Tomei was the sponsor of both House Bill 2377 and 2038. One opponent of the legislation, Senator Alan Bates, spoke out against the bill, saying that he was not willing to force drivers not to use cell phones. On the other side of the issue was House Representative Sal Esquivel, who equated distracted driving with drunk driving.

Prior to the enactment of these two bills, Oregon had only two comparable laws. One was simply a general law about reckless driving. The other was a ban on cell phone use by teen drivers, which went into effect in 2008. The Oregon State Police Department stated that no tickets had been written based on the 2008 teen driving legislation. That bill created a secondary violation, which means that a teen driver would have to be pulled over for a separate offense.

Summary of Legislations from 2009

Oregon House Bill 2377 prohibited all Oregon motorists from using handheld cell phones and texting while driving. The use of hands-free devices while driving was allowed for drivers over the age of 18. The House passed bill 2377 in April, and the Senate did the same in June. The Oregon governor signed the bill into legislation in July of the same year. Beginning on January 1, 2010, the bill went into effect, and law enforcement officers were allowed to pull over drivers suspected breaking this law without other cause. The fee for breaking this law is $142.

Another bill, House Bill 2038, sought to ban the use of cell phones without a hands-free accessory and put into place a penalty of up to license suspension for those caught. Members of the House advanced a different House Bill, number 3037, instead.