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How Does Oregon’s Distracted Driving Law Work

Let’s face it – everyone deals with distraction from time to time. Between work, children, chores, spouses, entertainment, and everything in between, there is a lot to juggle. For example, at home, you may have something cooking on the stove, a phone ringing, a knock at the door, and a child yelling – all at the same time.

Similarly, at work, you may have multiple phone calls waiting, texts, emails dinging, office visitors, and meetings, all coinciding. But with these examples, you can stop, take a breath, and gather yourself. But what happens when people drive while they are distracted? As we know, distracted driving can lead to dangerous and deadly consequences. As a result, many states, including Oregon, have taken steps to attempt to address the problem. This article will discuss how Oregon’s distracted driving law works.

What is distracted driving?

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), which falls under the United States Department of Transportation, provides a simple description of “distracted driving” that is useful for considering the problem. It is any activity that diverts a driver’s attention from driving. Behind the wheel, the driver’s attention should be dedicated to the road and operating the vehicle.

The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) expands on this definition by explaining that distraction can occur when something other than driving occupies the driver’s eyes, hands, ears, or mind. ODOT describes the following types of driver distraction:

  • Cognitive: The driver is thinking about something besides driving. Most people are busy and have caught their minds wandering to many different topics while driving.
  • Auditory: This involves listening to things not associated with driving. Examples could include a passenger talking or loud music playing.
  • Visual: Looking at something other than the road and cars around us while driving can be dangerous. Examples include texting, emailing, or looking at documents or other things inside the vehicle.
  • Manual: This means holding or handling something besides the steering wheel. Examples include using cellphones, eating food, or fumbling through a purse.

What is Oregon’s distracted driving law?

While it may not be practical to address all of these forms of distracted driving through legislation, Oregon has attempted to address the use of electronic devices. Oregon Revised Statutes, Section 811.507 prohibits the operation of a motor vehicle while using a “mobile electronic device.” The general definition of a “mobile electronic device” under the statute is an electronic device that is not permanently installed in a motor vehicle. It includes (but is not limited to) a device “capable of text messaging, voice communication, entertainment, navigation, accessing the internet or producing electronic mail.”

There are several exceptions for who can be found guilty of a violation. For example, hands-free devices are permitted. In addition, ambulance, school bus, and truck drivers are allowed to communicate within the scope of their employment.

The need for distracted driving laws

Like many around the country, our legislators have undoubtedly been affected by the sobering statistics associated with distracted driving. According to ODOT, 15,538 crashes occurred in Oregon from 2016 to 2020 that involved distracted drivers. These crashes resulted in 186 deaths and 24,126 injuries. The dangers are too great to ignore.

Call with questions

Even if a driver did not violate the distracted driver statute, they could be determined to be negligent under Oregon law and responsible for the harm they caused. However, the process can be complicated, and we know you will likely have questions about your rights. We will be happy to answer all of your questions. Simply call to schedule a free consultation. We take pride in helping our clients hold negligent drivers accountable for their actions. Ultimately, that is the best way to make society safer for everyone.