Oregon’s New Distracted Driving Law Takes Effect This Sunday: What You Need To Know


Effective this Sunday, October 1st, there will be a stricter ban on cell phone use while driving and higher fines. House Bill 2597, passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor earlier this year, prohibits drivers from using ANY function of the cell phone that requires holding or touching.

The earlier version, enacted in 2009, banned texting while driving and required drivers to use a hands-free device when making calls. However, there seemed to be a loophole in the law. According to some interpretations, it left drivers free to use apps or program navigation while driving, as long as they weren’t calling or texting.

In Oregon, a “crash caused by distracted driving occurs approximately every three hours, ” according to the Oregon Department of Transportation’s distracted driving task force. Nationwide, distracted drivers account for 1 in 10 traffic fatalities and 18% of traffic injuries, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

I’ve seen the consequences of distracted driving, and it is devastating to Oregonians and their families. I believe it is time Oregon stepped up and implemented stiffer fines and even jail time for repeat offenders. Hopefully this is a healthy step in getting people to hang up while driving. What do you think?

Here is what you need to know regarding the new Oregon cell phone law:

Q. When Am I Allowed to Use My Cell phone?

A. You have to be parked safely, i.e. stopped at the side of the road or in a designated marketing spot. It is NOT legal to use the device when stopped at a stop light, stop sign, in traffic, etc…

Q. What If I Need To Call 911?

A. Drivers may use their cell phone to call 911 or otherwise summon emergency help, but only if no one else in the car was capable of doing it. Likewise, emergency responders can use their cellphones when responding to an emergency call, including in personal vehicles.

Q. Can I Turn My Cell Phone On and Off? 

A. The use of a single touch or swipe to activate or deactivate the device is permitted.

Q. What Happens If I Break This Law and Get Caught?

A. If this is a first offense (not contributing to a crash, the presumptive fine is $260+. Second offense, $435+, and third offense is a minimum fine of $2,000 and could be up to 6 months in jail.

Q. Does This Law Apply To Other Devices?

A. The basic requirement of the law: it is illegal to drive while holding or using an electronic device (including tablets, GPS, laptops, etc…)

Q: What if I’m under 18?

A: Drivers who are 17 or younger may not use mobile devices at all, even with a hands-free device.

To learn more about distracted driving in Oregon and the legal ramifications for causing an accident due to distracted driving, I recommend the following articles on my Blog: