Beaverton Police Department: Cell phone use while driving – know the law

By Police Staff

Driving a Motor Vehicle While Using a Mobile Electronic Device, ORS 811.507.

It has been a little over five months since the new, more restrictive, “cell phone” law took effect, yet many drivers are still unaware of the limitations this law places on their ability to interact with a mobile electronic device while driving. While the law does allow the driver to use a mobile electronic device with a hands-free accessory, the parameters of its use are very specific. The intention of the law is to encourage drivers to maintain focus on the single most important activity while driving: DRIVING.

Previous versions of the law did not define the type of prohibited devices. The new law defines a “mobile electronic device” as something not permanently installed in the vehicle and includes, but is not limited to, devices capable of text messaging, voice communication, entertainment, navigation, accessing the Internet or producing electronic mail.

The law specifically defines “Driving” as operating a vehicle on a public roadway, as well as while temporarily stopped because of traffic or a traffic control device (i.e. a stop light, stop sign, railroad crossing, etc.). Additionally, the law also applies to parking lots and other premises open to the public. “Driving” does not include when the vehicle is stopped where it can safely remain stationary and is pulled to the side of, or off, a roadway or is in a designated parking space.

A “hands-free accessory” is an attachment or built-in feature that gives the driver the ability to keep both hands on the steering wheel. Examples include: a Bluetooth earpiece, Bluetooth speaker, wired ear buds, etc.

Unlike earlier versions of the law, a driver now violates this statute by merely holding a mobile electronic device in his or her hand, regardless of whether or not the device is in use. A driver is also prohibited from using the device without a hands-free accessory, unless the person is activating or deactivating a function of the device with only the minimal use, via swipe or tap, of a finger.

There are some exceptions to this requirement, with most of them pertaining to HAM Radio operators, Citizen’s Band radios, construction or utility vehicles and school bus operators in the scope of their employment. Another exception to this statute pertains to summoning or providing medical or other emergency help. If the driver is the only person in the vehicle capable of summoning or providing the required emergency help, he or she may use a mobile electronic device without a hands-free accessory.

The fines and penalties of the new law have also changed.

A person’s first conviction for an offense that does not contribute to a crash is a Class B traffic violation with a fine of $265. However, the driver may be able to participate in a Distracted Driving Avoidance Course. If so, and upon successful completion, the fine would be dismissed, though the conviction would remain on the person’s driving record.

A person’s second conviction within 10 years, or if the first offense contributed to a crash, is a Class A traffic violation with a fine $440. This driver would not be eligible for the Distracted Driving Avoidance Course.

A person’s third or subsequent conviction within 10 years is a Class B misdemeanor with a minimum $2000 fine and potential jail time.

The Beaverton Police Department would like to remind drivers of the dangers of driving while distracted and encourage everyone to drive like your life depends on it; it does.