Oregon’s New Distracted Driving Law

On October 1st, Oregon’s new distracted driving law takes effect. Drivers have been banned from talking and texting in Oregon since 2009. However, drivers could still use other functions on their phone while driving or stopped in traffic. The new law closes that loophole.

Starting Monday, drivers in Oregon cannot use any function of a mobile electronic device that requires holding or touching the device, unless they are pulled over on the side of the roadway or parked. The law applies to tablets, laptops and GPS units, in addition to cellphones. Prohibited uses include: drafting emails, accessing the Internet, navigating, or listening to music. Electronic devices may still be used for navigation or to listen to entertainment while driving, so long as the driver enters the address or selects a song (or podcast or audiobook) while the car is parked.

Drivers may use their devices to call 911 or otherwise summon emergency help, but only if no one else in the car is capable of making the call. The law also excludes emergency personnel, and commercial motor vehicle and school bus drivers under some circumstances.

Oregon employers should look at their policies on cell phone usage and text messaging while driving. Policies drafted under the prior law may need to be expanded to cover the additional devices and prohibited uses. Washington employers take note too; a similar law took effect in Washington State in July.

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