Distracted driving in Oregon is an epidemic that endangers the lives of drivers, passengers and pedestrians. This is why the state addresses the dangers of being distracted while operating a motor vehicle through strict legislation. Unfortunate distracted driving facts have contributed to new traffic penalties in the state, and drivers need to know these facts and the current regulations that may affect them to remain safe on the roads.

Public service announcements (PSAs) have made their way throughout the state, making drivers aware of distractions that threaten their safety and the safety of others. While the free booklets, brochures, posters and stickers provided by the OR Transportation Safety Division raise public awareness about the dangers of distractions behind the wheel, drivers are responsible for knowing all driving laws.

Because awareness is an important part of combatting distracted driving in OR, read on to learn more about the state’s laws and penalties.

What is distracted driving in Oregon?

Driving distractions are defined as tasks that drivers participate in that cause their attention to be temporarily removed from the act of driving. Oregon has experienced over 10,000 distracted driving convictions in 2016 alone. A list of the types of distractions drivers must recognize is as follows:

  1. Visual distractions
  2. Auditory distractions
  3. Manual distractions
  4. Cognitive distractions

Most distractions require drivers to engage in multiple types of distractions. For instance, texting and driving demands visual, manual and cognitive attention from the driver, which makes it one of the most concerning distraction.

Distracted driving laws in OR make it illegal for drivers to drive while performing other tasks that have the ability to distract them. Drivers are advised to focus on driving and limit distractions to avoid possible legal penalties.

Distracted Driving Laws in Oregon for Handheld Devices

Under distracted driving laws, all interactions with handheld devices is prohibited in for all drivers. Oregon is one of only 13 states that have imposed a full ban on handheld cellphones for all drivers, but exceptions to this regulation still apply to drivers in certain circumstances.

For instance, drivers may use their handheld devices if they are contacting emergency services, parked in a designated parking spot and either activating or deactivating the device by pressing a single button. The following facts about distracted driving also apply to some drivers in OR:

  • Hands-free or built-in devices are permitted for vehicle use.
  • Drivers may not use handheld devices when stopped at traffic signals.
  • Holding a device (e.g., cellphone, tablet or GPS) while driving is illegal.
  • Music and other auditory entertainment while driving is permitted if drivers maintain both hands on the steering wheel.

Texting and Driving Laws in Oregon

Texting while driving is against the law in Oregon. Over 1,000 distracted driving accidents occurred between 2012 and 2016 that involved the use of cellphones despite the texting and handheld device ban that began in 2009.

Consequently, the texting and driving laws have been recently updated in OR and specify that touching more than a single button or swiping a phone screen more than once is grounds for a citation.

Oregon Laws on Distracted Driving for Novice Drivers

According to distracted driving law in OR, novice drivers younger than 18 years old are unable to use handheld or hands-free devices while driving. This rule applies to all cell phone use while driving at stop lights, stop signs or other brief stops in traffic for those with learner’s permits.

Oregon Distracted Driving Regulations for CDL Holders

Those with commercial driver’s licenses (CDLs) cannot engage in distracted driving unless one of the following exceptions apply to them:

  • They are tow truck or bus drivers and are abiding by federal rules for CDL holders.
  • They use a two-way radio (for school bus and utility truck drivers only).
  • They are HAM radio operators.

However, CDL holders may be allowed to use hands-free devices when appropriate, but no texting and driving is acceptable if commercial drivers do not qualify for an exception.

Distracted Driving Penalties in Oregon

To help stop distracted driving in OR, penalties for such offenses have increased. A distracted driving ticket for a first offense may be issued with a class B violation and a fine up to $1,000. Second offenses within 10 years are considered class A violations and can cost up to $2,000 in fines.

Laws ensure the same penalties apply to first offenders who are involved in an accident. Third offenses may result in misdemeanors, steep fines and six months in jail.

As of 2018, a distracted driving course is available for drivers who have received a citation. These courses may take place either online or in a classroom, but only certain providers are approved to teach the courses.

If the course is completed within four months of the date of the offense with a passing grade of 80 percent, then fines may be waived. However, judges must determine a driver’s eligibility for attending the courses.

Note: Distracted driving courses do not remove the violation from driving records.

Ways to Prevent Distracted Driving in Oregon

Distracted driving prevention methods include educating the public on the dangers of distractions behind the wheel. However, the elimination of distractions on the road is dependent on drivers’ behavior. Therefore, drivers must know how to avoid issues and maintain a safe driving environment. Below are a few tips to help drivers avoid distracted driving consequences:

  • Do not text and drive and turn off your devices.
  • Avoid multitasking.
  • Pull off the road if you need to make a call.
Last updated on Wednesday, October 14 2020.