What is it that some members of the legislature seem to have against the people of Oregon that they want to punish us every chance they get?
The Senate Judiciary Committee has just voted for a bill that would increase the maximym fine for using a hand-held cell phone while driving from $250 to $1,000. One thousand dollars for answering the phone? Come on, where is the reason in that?
The bill is being pushed by Peter Courtney, a Democrat from Salem and the longtime president of the Senate. So it stands a good chance of passing, despite the sensible objections of senators such as Betsy Close of Albany. During Tuesday’s committee hearing, she voted against the bill and worried that the proposed fines are too severe, especially considering that many potential violators are young people.
That’s one reasonable objection. Another is that cell phone use while driving continues despite the 2009 law against it because it is very hard to enforce. It’s not because the fines are too low. It’s because we don’t have enough cops to watch every driver, and those we do have usually have more pressing calls that need a response.
There’s another reason why thousand-dollar fines for those offenses are out of line. It is that the law applies only to hand-held phones but exempts the ones that can be operated hands free. But what’s distracting while driving is not holding something to your ear. It’s having a conversation on the phone. So the risk of causing an accident is the same, but only one kind of phoning is against the law and subject to stiff fines. Where is the sense in that?
The point has been made that other activities while driving — such as applying makeup, having lunch, reading a map or a book — are just as distracting as a phone call. If we take this seriously and pass more laws, just where is it going to end? Instead, it would be better for legislators to show some restraint and give citizens credit or acting reponsibly most of the time. (hh)