April is National Distracted Driving Month. Please stay alert & distraction free

April is National Distracted Driving Month. Please stay alert & distraction free

Since April is National Distracted Driving Month, it is a good time to remind drivers of the importance of staying focused on the single most important activity while driving: DRIVING.

From 2014-2018, 155 people have been killed, and over 22,000 injured, in Oregon crashes where the driver was reported to be distracted (Oregon Impact). It’s likely the number of injuries and fatalities are actually higher, as the statistics only include confirmed cases of distraction.

In 2017, the Oregon Legislature enacted an updated, more restrictive, version of the “mobile electronic device” law. Unlike previous versions of the law, a driver 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.

The law defines a “mobile electronic device” as something that is 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 applies when the driver is operating a vehicle on a public roadway, as well as while being temporarily stopped because of traffic or a traffic control device (i.e. a stop light, stop sign, or 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. Holding the phone in your hand with speakerphone activated is not an example of a “hands-free accessory.”

The fines and penalties also changed with the updated law.

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 contributes 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.

According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), “Distracted Driving is a dangerous behavior for drivers, passengers, and non-occupants alike. Distraction is a specific type of inattention that occurs when drivers divert their attention from the driving task to focus on some other activity instead.” These distractions can include – just to mention a few – passengers, mobile electronic devices, and other in-vehicle systems. As a driver, your first responsibility is to make sure you are operating your vehicle in the safest possible way.

Please stay alert and distraction free!