Several new laws going into effect in the New Year are aimed at increasing safety on Oregon roads, but in different ways. One increases the fine for using a handheld mobile device while driving, and the other makes it illegal to smoke in a vehicle where children are present. The fine is increasing for mobile device usage.
Senate Bill 9 changes Oregon’s traffic offense of operating a motor vehicle while using a mobile communication device from a Class D violation to a Class C. The minimum fine for a class C violation is $142, and the fine for this offense can be as high as $500. The fine’s increase is aimed at reducing the number of crashes that involve a driver talking on a handheld phone or texting.
Using a cell phone while driving falls under the category of “distracted driving,” and this type of distraction is an increasingly dangerous behavior across the country. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in the U.S. 3,331 people were killed in crashes involving a distracted driver in 2011, compared to 3,267 in 2010.
The behavior is especially dangerous for younger drivers: 11 percent of all drivers under the age of 20 involved in fatal crashes were reported as distracted at the time of the crash. Any activity that diverts a person’s attention away from the primary task of driving is dangerous.
Even though a majority of Oregonians believe texting and hand-held cell phone use while driving is unsafe, some still choose to do so. In spite of this, cell phone convictions in Oregon have steadily risen from an initial 40 in 2008 to nearly 23,000 in 2012.
Senate Bill 444 created the new offense of smoking in a vehicle while a person younger than 18 years old is in the car. The maximum fine for the first offense is $250, and the maximum fine for repeat offenses is $500.