NEW LAWS
ARE COMING

 

WHAT’S HAPPENING

Early in 2017, Oregon Lawmakers introduced stiffer penalties for distracted driving. On August 2nd, Governor Kate Brown signed HB2597 into law.

This law goes into effect on October 1st, so it is best to be ready rather than get caught off guard! Included on this site are useful nuggets of information as well as product offerings to make the transition as easy as possible.

THE LAW – HOUSE BILL 2597


THE SPONSORS

OFFICIAL TITLE

Relating to the offense of operating a motor vehicle while using a mobile electronic device; and declaring an emergency.

PRIMARY INTENT

Closes a loophole that originally only identified texting and voice calling as punishable events. Now any usage of a mobile electronic device (e.g. cellphone, tablet, GPS, etc) is under the umbrella of the law.

Requires any interaction with a mobile electronic device to be both hands free, and momentary (e.g. to activate voice commands or your navigation app with a single press).

IMPORTANT NOTE FOR MINORS

These rules only apply to drivers 18 years of age or OLDER. Anyone under the age of 18 is forbidden from operating mobile electronic devices while driving, even when using a hands-free mount.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQs)

1. WHAT’S THE FINE/PUNISHMENT?

  • First offense, not contributing to a crash: Class B violation.
    • Presumptive fine $260 (The amount on the ticket; if you don’t simply pay, it could go up or down).
    • Minimum fine is $130; maximum fine is $1,000.
  • Second offense, or first offense, if it contributed to a crash: Class A violation.
    • Presumptive Fine $435.
    • Minimum fine is $220; maximum is $2,500.
  • Third offense in ten years: Class B misdemeanor.
    • Minimum fine $2,000; maximum is $2,500.
    • Up to 6 months in jail.

2. CAN I QUICKLY GRAB MY PHONE AT A STOP SIGN/TRAFFIC LIGHT?

Despite how tempting it is for that quick peek, it is NOT legal to use the device when momentarily stopped at a stop light, stop sign, in traffic, etc.

You may only use your device when you are parked safely. This means that you are: pulled over to the side of the road (without blocking bicyclists or traffic!) or are in a designated parking spot. Alternately, if you are in a utility truck parked (including in a roadway) to do maintenance work. Your car does not need to be turned off.

3. ARE ANY ITEMS EXCLUDED FROM THE LAW?

Permanently installed devices such as your car stereo (including stereos with touch screens or built-in GPS antenna), aftermarket CB and licensed HAM radios, or using the steering wheel controls offered in certain vehicles.

Hands-free devices when used with a single finger/touch to activate/deactivate the device or feature.

4. HOW *CAN* I USE MY MOBILE DEVICE?

First and foremost, you should only use your device when it is safe to do so. You may operate your phone by voice (e.g. Google Assistant, Samsung’s Bixby, or Apple’s Siri) or with quick interactions where you are not holding the device (single finger touches).

If your car supports Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, you can also interact with your mobile device in this fashion.

(one moment while we pay the bills…)

5. WHAT IF I’M JUST PLAYING MUSIC OR USING THE GPS APP?

Any use of your phone while in your vehicle applies, even hitting Pause/Play on your favorite music app or turning on your GPS. While a quick button press to hit play or launch your GPS app is permissible, you are not allowed to do complicated actions. If you want to enter an address into your navigation application or pick a song playlist, you will need to use voice commands, your in-dash stereo system, or safely pull over to the side of the road. 

Here are a few handy Google Assistant (formally named “Google Now”) commands that can help (via The complete list of ‘OK, Google’ commands – c|net):

  • Navigate to [address, name, business name, type of business, or other destination].
  • Take me home.
  • Play [X song] by [X artist] on Spotify.
  • Listen to [type of music, playlist, song, artist, album]. Ex.: “Listen to workout playlist.”

A few equivalent commands for Apple’s Siri (via The complete list of Siri commands – c|net):

  • Take me home.
  • Find [driving, walking, transit] directions to [destination].
  • Shuffle my playlist. (Apple Music only)

Unfortunately, Apple has not opened up access to Siri in the same fashion that Google has opened up its voice commands so you are unable to control, say, Spotify.

6. CAN I USE MY DEVICE IN EMERGENCIES?

You are permitted to operate your mobile device while providing or summoning medical help and PROVIDED no one else is available to make the call.

7. WHAT HAPPENS ONCE I AM CITED FOR USING A MOBILE DEVICE?

If this is your first offense, you are 18 or older, AND you did not contribute to an accident you may be eligible for some slight reprieve. It requires you to attend (and pay for) a safe driving class.

Course for First Time Offenders

  • For a first offense that does not contribute to a crash, the court may offer to suspend the fine if the driver
    completes and pays for an approved Distracted Driving Avoidance course, and shows proof to the court,
    within four months. (The court may grant an extension for good cause.)

    • ODOT establishes course standards, maintains a list of approved providers, and gets that list to courts.
  • The court may schedule a hearing to determine if the person successfully completed the course. If the violator successfully completed the course, the court must enter a sentence of “discharge.” Only the fine is suspended – the violation will still be recorded on the offender’s driving record. (The driving record is how a court or law enforcement officer determines if this is a repeat offense.).