What You Can and Can't Do While Driving

According to a study done by the Harvard Health Watch, the average American spends 101 minutes per day driving. Driving a vehicle is an enormous responsibility. Unfortunately, because driving is so common, many of us do not take our responsibility to drive safely as seriously as we should. Drivers are faced with many potential distractions every time they get behind the wheel.

In the last couple of decades, cell phones and smart phones have made the number of distractions for drivers practically unlimited. As we’ve discussed on this blog before, distracted driving is an incredibly dangerous practice that is responsible for many traffic accidents and deaths every year. It is for this reason that, around the country, laws are being introduced to curtail the amount of distracted driving that occurs, especially when a cell phone or smart phone is involved.

Is the Problem of Distracted Driving That Bad?

In 2015, distracted driving was responsible for the deaths of over 3,400 people. On top of that, 391,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers. For anyone who wonders if laws designed to curtail distracted driving are necessary, these numbers speak for themselves. Left unchecked, it’s safe to say the problem would only continue to get worse as smart phones have become practically ubiquitous, especially for younger drivers.

What’s Being Done About Distracted Driving?

On October 1st, 2017, a new law took effect which says that Oregon drivers could no longer drive while holding their phones. In other words, it’s now against the law for a person in Oregon to hold a phone, tablet, laptop, GPS, or other device in their hand while they are driving. Previous laws restricted drivers from making calls or sending texts but did not explicitly prohibit using a phone for other reasons like playing music, getting directions, or looking things up. The new distracted driving law is meant to be more comprehensive. However, there are some circumstances where you could still use your phone while driving.

What Can You Do While Driving?

According to Oregon’s Department of Transportation, the new distracted driving law does not apply under certain circumstances. If you are using a hands-free or built-in device for calls, navigation, to change music, etc. and are over the age of 18, you are not in violation of the law. Fortunately, many new cars come with technology that’s designed to be less of a distraction to drivers. Additionally, drivers may use a single touch or swipe to turn their phone on or off, or start or stop a function within the phone like a call, music, etc. If a driver is parked safely in a parking spot or pulled off to the side of the road, they may use their phone. It’s important to note that being stopped at a traffic light or stop sign does not count. Also, if you’re using your phone to summon medical help or report an accident when no one else is available, you aren’t in violation of the law. Finally, emergency responders, truck and bus drivers, and utility truck drivers may all use devices for the purposes of their work.

What are the Consequences of Breaking the Law?

Aside from the obvious dangers inherent in driving while distracted, the law sets out some punishments for offenders. A first-time offender can be fined $260, or more than $400 if the incident leads to a crash. Multiple offenses over a 10-year period could result in the offender spending up to six months in jail and paying a $2,000 fine. For your safety and the safety of others, it’s best to put the phone down and focus on the important task of driving.

Contact an Attorney

If you or a loved one has been involved in an accident with a distracted driver, don’t hesitate. Contact the experienced auto accident attorneys at Nelson MacNeil Rayfield to schedule a free consultation. We’ll be happy to answer any questions you may have and, if necessary, represent your case in court.


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