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Clearing up the confusion: Exceptions to the distracted driving law

We break down the exceptions to Oregon's new distracted driving law. Photo by Audrey Weil.

SPRINGFIELD, Ore. -- In just over a week, Oregon's new distracted driving law goes into effect, making it illegal to hold or use an electronic device while driving.

Already, the new law has raised a lot of questions.

In order to help clean some things up, we spoke with Springfield Police Officer Tom Speldrich.

Can you use a hands-free device?

"If you're able to use the feature of it with the ability to maintain both hands on the steering wheel and drive the car, then that's allowed for by the law."

Can you use your phone at a stoplight?

"No."

Can you use your phone if you pull over?

"If you're safely stopped in a parking spot or a designated saw stopping area, then yes."

What about speaker phone?

"Anybody that's used a speaker phone while they're in the car knows that it's very hard to hear the phone call, and inevitably that's going to tempt you to pick up your phone and bring it closer to you. So it's certainly best to just plan on using something better than that."

What about GPS?

"You know where you're gonna go when you leave in your car - punch that direction in before you pull out on the roadway. If plans change and you have to go somewhere else, just pull your car over, put the new location in and then start driving again. Have it talk to you."

Speldrich says the intent of the law is to keep your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road.

As long as you can do that, you're probably acting within the realm of the law.

Here's a list of exemptions from ODOT:

• When using hands-free or built-in devices, if 18 years of age or older.

• Use of a single touch or swipe to activate or deactivate the device or a function.

• While providing or summoning medical help and no one else is available to make the call.

• When parked safely, i.e., stopped at the side of the road or in a designated parking spot.

• It is NOT legal to use the device when stopped at a stop light, stop sign, in traffic, etc.

• Truck or bus drivers following the federal rules for CDL holders.

• Using a two-way radio: CB users, school bus drivers, utility truck drivers in the scope of employment.

• Ambulance or emergency vehicle operators in the scope of employment.

• Police, fire, EMS providers in the scope of employment (can include when in a personal vehicle if, for

example, when responding to an emergency call).

• HAM radio operators, age 18 years or older.

The law goes into effect Oct. 1.

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