A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Phone/driving ban reaches too far

Written May 31st, 2017 by Hasso Hering

Photo was taken (safely, while stopped) with a mobile electronic device, thus illegal under HB 2597.

In Salem, the Senate Judiciary Committee this morning once again postponed action on Rep. Andy Olson’s bill to outlaw the use of any mobile electronic device while driving. It would be understandable if legislators had second thoughts about this bill.

Oregon started banning the use of cell phones while driving years ago, for minors in 2007 and for anyone in 2009. In 2013 the legislators stiffened the penalties. Still, drivers have been on the phone a lot.

In 2015, the Court of Appeals ruled that the ban applied only to telephoning and texting, not to any other use of a cell phone while driving. This led ODOT’s task force on distracted driving to propose a more sweeping ban, and Olson, R-Albany, sponsored the result, House Bill 2597-A, which has passed the House.

The trouble is that the bill attempts to outlaw the use of any “mobile electronic device,” not just those used for communication, while driving. This sounds as though it would be against the law to drive while wearing a Fitbit bracelet or an electronic watch.

The bill specifically bans using a mobile navigation device while driving. And by “mobile,” it means not permanently attached to the vehicle. So a mapping app on the screen of a smart phone sitting in a dashboard bracket would violate the law. But consulting a regular map, or even a scribbled note of directions, would be all right, even though that can be far more distracting.

The bill makes it illegal to use a mobile electronic device “for any purpose” while driving. So if your cell phone is switched off, sitting in the console tray, and you pick it up to put it in a pocket, you might be breaking the law. And if a cop sees you do it, you might be pulled over in order to get a $1,000 ticket.

The idea is to discourage distracted driving, which Olson told the Senate committee causes one in four traffic crashes and injures someone in Oregon every three hours. But there’s no reasonable way to legislate against inattention. And making the attempt, as in this case, sounds more and more as though the next step is to pass a law against picking your nose. (hh)




15 responses to “Phone/driving ban reaches too far”

  1. Tim Hanson says:

    I drive a vehicle that has factory-installed, dash-mounted navigation system. I don’t use this for navigation, but I could switch to the map display that gives a real-time location of my vehicle position on a map. It moves as the vehicle is moving. Is this any less distracting than a cell phone? My parents have a dash-mounted (but mobile) Garmin that does the same navigating. It sounds like under this Bill one would be legal and the other not.

    I understand the need to close some obvious loop-holes, but this doesn’t seem like the best way. How about getting insurance companies to offer incentives to undistracted drivers? How about cell phones coming with a “driving” mode, similar to airplane mode?
    It boils down to driver education – any distracted driving is bad, and this includes changing the radio station, conversing with a passenger, or dealing with a bug inside one’s car.

  2. Thomas Aaron says:

    Slap an Uber or Lyft sticker on your car, problem solved. Service vehicles are usually exempt from these laws.

  3. Ray Kopczynski says:

    BRAVO to Andy for trying to do the right thing!

  4. Terry says:

    Andy is an honorable man but this is purely an income generation scheme.
    Enforce current laws!

  5. Colleen Johnson says:

    Why does common sense always seem to elude our legislators? No, don’t talk and text but let the first responders be able to locate addresses and speak in emergencies.

  6. Jon Stratton says:

    Doesn’t anyone remember the Basic Rule? If you’re driving distracted, and the cop can prove it, you’re violating the Basic Rule. Shouldn’t that be enough? Why do these people always want to create more and more poorly written laws instead of just enforcing the ones we have? And for those who want to get picky… You would be in violation of ORS 811.100 if you are driving at any speed and are noticeably distracted. This condition would be covered under 811.100 (1)(f), which is a nice catchall referring to any other condition then existing.

  7. tom cordier says:

    I wish Andy would work on something useful. Example? Go back to the pre 2008 election rule requiring a 50% turnout for special elections. The GAPS $159M bond passed with ~20% turnout which gave the automatic 1000+ yes votes a marginal victory. That gives the unions an unfair advantage to pick the pocket of taxpayers. Change that law–stop the corruption.

    • Thomas Aaron says:

      No thank you Bill Sizemore

    • John Jay says:

      I disagree with you Tom, if you don’t vote it’s your own fault. We’re just lucky the bond backers didn’t ask for 500 million because they probably would have got it, they held back a bit. The bond backers probably realized they could destroy the community with the type of citizen they are dealing with, as I remember the previous superintendent said she was worried about the community being able to pay for these bonds they are passing. As it is, these bonds will be driving out the lower income individual, we are already hearing reports that many are going to Brownsville as Albany is out of their price range and evictions and unit sharing is definitely on the way up. There are a lot of people renting that are not going to be happy as this filters down to them, but if they couldn’t be bothered to vote, how can you blame those that did?.

      Like I said, we’re lucky they didn’t ask for $500 million. Albany will be a nice place to live but it’s not going to be cheap.

  8. john hartman says:

    Driving a vehicle on public roads is not a “right.” It is a regulated privilege, subject to changes in regulation as conditions change. Hang up and drive.

  9. Dick Olsen says:

    Would I dare to wear my hearing aid? It’s an electronic device.

  10. centrist says:

    Can’t dispute that distracted driving presents a public safety issue.
    Also can’t dispute the unintended effects that HH has brought forward.
    We can’t have a rule that comes with unwritten exceptions.
    This thing shouldn’t be considered in the Senate. It’s a terrible solution to an issue

  11. Diana K says:

    Is listening to my Pandora via my cell phone more distracting than the built in radio? I use the same steering wheel controls to change the volume….

  12. mike says:

    Section 1.3.b indicates that if you use a “hands free accessory” that this doesn’t apply to you. You can still use your navigation app on a phone strapped to your dash board that isn’t built in. You just can’t interact with it in a way that takes your hands off the wheel.

    • centrist says:

      So, this takes a council of rabbis to render a decision of applicability
      Good luck with that on the ground


HH Today: A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley
Albany Albany Carousel Albany City Council Albany council Albany downtown Albany Fire Department Albany housing Albany parks Albany Planning Commission Albany police Albany Post Office Albany Public Works Albany riverfront Albany Station Albany streets Albany traffic Albany urban renewal Andy Olson Benton County Benton County parks bicycling bike lanes Bowman Park Bryant Park Calapooia River CARA City of Albany climate change coronavirus COVID-19 Cox Creek path Crocker Lane cumberland church cycling Dave Clark Path Daylight saving time downtown Albany Edgewater Village global warming gun control Highway 20 Interstate 5 Kitzhaber Linn County marijuana medical marijuana Millersburg North Albany Road Obama ODOT Oregon coast Oregon legislature Oregon passenger rail Pacific Power Portland & Western Republic Services Riverside Drive Santiam Canal Talking Water Gardens The Banks Tom Cordier Union Pacific urban renewal Water Avenue Willamette River

Copyright 2020. All Rights Reserved. Hasso Hering.
Website Serviced by Santiam Communications
Hasso Hering