Distracted Driving Law
Text and The advent of cell phone technology has enabled people to become more accessible and mobile than ever. However, it has also led to increased instances of motor vehicle crashes involving drivers distracted by devices.
In response, the Oregon Legislature passed a law during its 2017 session aimed at addressing the problem. Drivers will want to be aware of the changes to the law,
House Bill 2597 took effect on October 1 of last year. It increased the maximum penalty for driving a motor vehicle while using a mobile communications device to $2,000.
A first conviction of the offense is now a Class C violation if it contributes to an accident. A second conviction within ten years of the first conviction becomes a Class A traffic violation. Anyone with a third or subsequent conviction within ten years is now committing a Class B misdemeanor.
The bill made changes that define “driving” as “operating a motor vehicle on a highway or premises open to the public, and while temporarily stationed because of traffic, a traffic control device or other momentary delays.” Under the new law, “driving” does not include when a vehicle is stopped in a location where it can safely remain stationary, is pulled over on the side of or off a roadway, is in a designated parking space or is required to park in the roadway to conduct necessary utility maintenance work.
Under the new law, a mobile electronic device is defined as one not permanently installed in a vehicle. It includes devices that are capable of texting, voice communication, entertainment, navigation, accessing the internet or producing email. Drivers commit the offense if they’re found holding the device in their hand while operating a vehicle.
However, there were several exemptions written into HB 2597. The law does not apply to persons employed as commercial motor vehicle or school bus drivers if the device is used within the scope of employment and permitted under applicable regulations. It also does not apply to drivers operating a two-way radio device while transporting forest products or operating a vehicle to assist in logging operations within the scope of their employment. The use of two-way radios while operating a school bus or for school activity is also exempted.
Drivers operating a vehicle owned or contracted by a utility are also exempted, and that includes natural gas, electricity, water or telecommunications. Another exemption is in place in HB 2597 for anyone driving an ambulance or emergency vehicle who is a police officer, firefighter or emergency services provider.
HB 2597 creates an affirmative defense for persons making a call about a medical emergency if nobody else in the vehicle at the time could have done so.
The law isn’t strictly punitive, and it also allows an option for drivers caught committing the offense for the first time. Among other things, it requires the Oregon Department of Transportation to establish standards for a distracted driving avoidance course.
Convictions for offenses such as distracted driving can have an affect on auto insurance premiums. But the highly trained staff at American Benefit Insurance (ABI Insurance) is extremely knowledgeable about these areas and so many more.
ABI Insurance offers free, no obligation quotes for policies to cover your automobile and other critical assets. Those quotes can be given over the phone or online at https://abipdx.com/forms/get-quote/.
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