A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Mobile phone crackdown: Questions

Written February 28th, 2017 by Hasso Hering

With a built-in phone, finding the right button takes your eyes off the road.

State Reps. Andy Olson of Albany, Dan Rayfield of Corvallis, and a few other legislators want Oregon to get tougher on distracted driving caused by handling mobile phones. But their bill on that issue has problems, and it’s not clear that passing it would have the desired effect.

Olson, a Republican, is one of three chief sponsors of House Bill 2597. Rayfield, a Democrat, is among the cosponsors. Their bill would expand the existing ban on using hand-held cell phones while driving. It would cover any “mobile electronic device” and prohibit its use not just for calling and texting but also for entertainment, navigation, accessing the Internet, and emailing. But the ban would not be “limited” to those uses. It would cover anything else for which a mobile electronic device could be used. And the maximum fine would be $2,000.

On Feb. 27, the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the bill. One problem that emerged was with CB radios, which evidently are still in use. The bill might subject truckers to fines if they keyed the hand-held mikes on their radios. (Another problem is that using mobile phones as cameras while driving presumably would be covered by the unlimited ban. No more pictures on this site illustrating various traffic or highway issues.)

Distractions have many causes, as we all know. As for phones, using the systems permanently installed in your vehicle can be far more distracting than answering a call on a mobile. Unless you use your car phone all time, when a call comes in you have to figure out which button to push. That takes your eyes off the road for seconds at a time, whereas you can easily keep looking out the windshield while reaching for a mobile and lifting it to your ear.

With that in mind, lawmakers might be tempted to prohibit the use of any electronic communication device while driving, not just mobile ones. But that would make all but useless all those newer cars and trucks with touch screens built into the dash. So they won’t even try that.

What’s the problem exactly? Albany Police Sgt. Robert Hayes testified for the bill on behalf of the police chiefs’ association, suggesting it would help cut down on wrecks. But another witness produced Oregon motor vehicle accident tables from 2014. They showed there had been more than 51,000 crashes that year. In only 272, or one-half of one percent, was a driver’s use of a cell phone identified as a contributing circumstance.

Even though we’ve had a law against it since 2009, the use of hand-held phones while driving is still fairly widespread, as far as I can see. Drivers know that they’re unlikely to get caught. So what good would it do to pass even more prohibitions when the simple ban we have is flouted as often as it is? (hh)



13 responses to “Mobile phone crackdown: Questions”

  1. Nommel says:

    A thinly veiled attempt at new revenue sources.
    Besides we all know trying to read a map resting on your steering wheel is so much safer than a navigation app that gives voice directions.

  2. HowlingCicada says:

    “””… using the systems permanently installed in your vehicle can be far more distracting than answering a call on a mobile. Unless you use your car phone all time, when a call comes in you have to figure out which button to push. That takes your eyes off the road for seconds at a time… “””

    Damn right. A couple years ago I rented a Chevy Spark whose radio (or whatever they’re called nowadays) had the most incredibly counter-intuitive and difficult user interface I’ve ever seen. It was like playing a video game; I had to hit the right buttons in the right sequence within a certain time limit just to change the volume, or else it switched stations instead (or something like that). It had a phone-like screen with no actual knobs or buttons, but this one was far worse than other knobless radios.

    Radios kill, just like cell phones. What is the solution? I don’t know except that it’s going to take a lot more than just telling drivers what they can’t do with their gadgets.

    Of course, in my ideal city, there won’t be any cars; barring that, no drivers except in amusement parks.

  3. Tony White says:

    You’re right, Hasso. We have become an over-regulated, over-legislated society. Too many laws just move us toward fascism and police state. If it’s not essential, don’t put it into law.

  4. Scott says:

    Prohibit navigation? Stupid. Putting an address into the phone/tablet/GPS device and having audible turn by turn directions saves lives over people trying to navigate via paper maps.

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      Way too many folks have had accidents (We have fun here in Albany with the railroad trestle in this regard.) by following GPS info. Folks *NEED* to be able to read and follow signs on the highway vs. turning off their brain and blindly following some ethereal voice on a Garmin or some other of its ilk…

  5. Ray Kopczynski says:

    If you’re driving a 1-ton+ chunk of metal and plastic down the highway, I’m hard pressed to figure out exactly “why” you would need to answer a phone – period. Yes, folks talk about ’emergencies,” etc… But if you’re interrupted aka what Hasso describes, and you have (or cause) an accident, what good did it do you to answer the phone. Said “emergency” will still be there when you get out of the car and then turn on your phone. To have the phone “on” all the time is totally absurd IMO…

    • DaleS says:

      “If you’re driving a 1-ton+ chunk of metal and plastic down the highway, I’m hard pressed to figure out exactly “why” you would need to answer a phone – period.”

      Why stop there? It’s at least as distracting to eat and/or drink while driving, or even worse, have two kids in the back seat while driving. We clearly need to ban ALL distracted driving.

    • Hasso Hering says:

      Why? Well, the last such occasion was when I was driving to KGAL near Lebanon one morning and the station called me to warn that the county was repaving the road in front of the station, making access from Highway 20 impossible, and advising me to take another route. To get such calls is the reason to have mobile phones. It wouldn’t make sense to turn them off.

      • Ray Kopczynski says:

        What would you have done if you had simply come upon the situation? I’ll hazard a guess you would have simply found another route to them. Yes, it would have been an “inconvenience,” but nothing insurmountable by any means… Besides, what did we all do driving vehicle before the advent of all these “things?”

  6. Mary Smith says:

    This is ridiculous! I never answer my phone while driving, or text… but the GPS ban is stupid! This is just a ploy to get more money into the coffers. Don’t mess with our freedoms! Radios and the like shouldn’t be banned. What about people who don’t live here? Are they going to get tickets because they use their legal GPS system while driving through our town? And filming traffic is my guarantee that if I’m in an accident, my version will be seen and believed. You need to rethink this! I’m all for safety, but not at the expense of freedoms. I’ve lived here quite a while, and you guys have messed up the streets so much that I can barely get around, let alone someone visiting. Just keep the status quo, give tickets for talking on the cell phones, and leave the rest of us be!

  7. FrankieG says:

    I’d be all for the ban but there should be no exemptions. That is, police, UPS drivers, truckers and etc., should not be exempt. Bottom line is if you’re not going to enforce the law it becomes another useless law on the book, of which there are far to many already.

  8. centrist says:

    Judging from the reactions above, this bill likely won’t make it out of committee

  9. David says:

    The new version of this law is also removing the exemption for FCC license holders for two way radios, CBs and Amateur radio operators that provide various communications sometimes in emergencies, all of which show very little involvement with distracted driving incidents

    Have seen distracted driving done by cops trying to type whole driving, why should they get an exemption they are just as dangerous, maybe they need two officers in the car now.


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