U drive, U text, U pay


Distracted Driving Campaign

Douglas County Deputies will be participating in the Connect to Disconnect (C2D) National Distracted Driving Enforcement and Awareness campaign beginning this Thursday.

This 4-hour national initiative is coordinated by State Highway Safety Offices and law enforcement agencies across the country. This initiative will take place on April 11, 2019, the first day of the 2019 U Drive. U Text. U Pay distracted driving high-visibility enforcement period that runs through April 15, 2019.

The goals of C2D are to demonstrate a nationwide commitment to enforcing cell phone and texting bans, and to reduce traffic crashes caused by distracted drivers, ultimately preventing injuries and deaths associated with cell phone use and texting while driving.

The Oregon legislature recently voted House Bill 2597 into law creating stricter distracted driving laws related to the use of mobile electronic devices. The change allows law enforcement to cite drivers who are engaged in activities on their devices beyond texting and talking.

The new law makes it illegal to drive while holding or using an electronic device such as a cell phone, tablet, GPS or laptop. Individuals may use a single touch or swipe to activate or deactivate a device or a function. For example, if it is safe to do so, you may swipe your phone to turn off the navigation system, but you aren’t allowed to input the address. In order to be in compliance with the law, you must pull over and park safely at the side of the road or in a designated parking spot to use the phone for other functions besides activation and deactivation. These laws apply to drivers stopped at a stoplight, stop sign or in traffic. 

Hands-free or built in devices that allow a person to keep both hands on the steering wheel are permitted for users over 18 years old.

If you need to contact 9-1-1 for emergency assistance, you can use your device to do so if there is no passenger present who is capable of making that call.

There are exceptions afforded to individuals employed in certain professions such as emergency personnel.

These laws are needed due to the significant number of injuries and deaths related to distracted driving. Please remember that anything that takes your eyes of the road, hands off the wheel or mind off what you are doing is a distraction. Please consider your safety and others’ wellbeing while driving.

The new penalties for violating the law after July 1, 2018 are: 

  • First offense -- Class B violation with a fine up to $1,000
  • Second offense - Class A violation with a fine up to $2,500
  • Third offense - Class B misdemeanor with a fine up to $2,000 and potential 6 months in jail 

The Oregon Department of Transportation said distracted driving caused 10,814 crashes between 2012 and 2016. In those crashes, 70 people died and 16,503 were hurt.

Unofficial numbers from ODOT show 172 crash deaths this year -- a 17.8% increase from the same time last year. Many of those crashes involved the driver leaving their lane, which is often caused by the driver being distracted, ODOT said. 

Violations include using any handheld device that takes your hands off the wheel. Built-in or hands-free devices are allowed but even mounted smart phones or GPS devices can only be used for single touch or swipe to activate or deactivate. 

Also being stopped at a red light or in traffic is not an acceptable time to use your device, you must be safely parked.

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