What you can and can't do under Oregon’s new distracted driving law

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PORTLAND. Ore. – Drivers have been warned about it for months, and now it’s finally here - Oregon’s new distracted driving law takes effect on Sunday.

Governor Kate Brown signed House Bill 2597 in August, and after Oct. 1 drivers will no longer be able to drive while holding their phone.

A driver commits the offense of “driving a motor vehicle while using a mobile electronic device” if they hold their phone in their hand while driving, or uses their phone for any purpose. It is important to note, the law also applies to tablets, laptops, GPS, and other devices.

There are exceptions though. Here are cases where the new law does NOT apply, according to Oregon’s Department of Transportation:

  • When using hands-free or built-in devices, if you are 18 years of age or older.
  • Use of a single touch or swipe to turn your device on and off, or start and stop a function within your phone (navigation, music, phone call, etc.).
  • When parked safely, like being stopped in a designated parking spot or pulled to the side of the road. However, it is NOT legal to use the device when stopped at a stop light stop sign, or in traffic.
  • While providing or summoning medical help and no one else is available to make the call.
  • Emergency responders.
  • To truck or bus drivers following the federal rules for commercial drivers license holders.
  • When using a two-way radio if you are a CB user, school bus driver, utility truck driver in scope of employment.
  • If you are a HAM radio operator age 18 years or older.

Fines also go up starting on Oct. 1. A first-time offender can now be fined $260; that is an increase from $160. If the distracted driving incident leads to a crash, the fine is more than $400. A third distracted driving offense over a 10-year period could mean six months in jail, the driver would also have to pay a fine of $2,000.

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