Oregon Cracking Down on Using Phones While Driving

If you live in Oregon you may be aware that the fine for using a cell phone while driving just went up and is now the second highest in the nation.

If you don’t live in Oregon but travel there, beware – the signs on the side of the road will no longer tell you the amount of the fine, or what constitutes using a cell phone.

House Bill 2597, passed August 10th and effective October 1st, significantly rewrites Oregon Revised Statute 811.507 , the law which controls use of mobile devices while driving. The offense was formerly a Class C traffic violation punishable by a $500 fine, but has been bumped up to Class B for which the fine is $1,000 for a first offense. Repeat offenses used to stay at Class C, but now a second offense within 10 years is a Class A traffic violation that carries a $2,000 fine. A third offense rises to a misdemeanor with possible jail time.

The State isn’t too keen on telling people this change occurred, either. That same law used to state that “The Department of Transportation shall place signs on state highways to notify drivers that violation of this section is subject to a maximum fine of $500.” Now it says: “The Department of Transportation shall place signs on state highways to notify drivers that it is unlawful to drive a motor vehicle on the highways of this state while using a mobile electronic device and violators are subject to criminal penalties.”

There were a few other important changes made, including that just holding a mobile electronic device while driving is now a violation. The old version of the law used the undefined term “operating” instead of “driving”, but the new version defines driving as everything except for being stopped out of the flow of traffic.

If your phone is in your hand while stopped during a traffic jam, that is now a $1,000 fine in the state of Oregon for your first offense.

There are a few select exemptions, defenses against the charge, and ways to have the fine suspended, but take note that Oregon is cracking down on drivers using their phones. Only North Dakota has stiffer penalties at $3,000 for a first offense - no other state’s fines start over $500 for now, but with numerous state’s looking to broaden their laws governing using cell phones while driving we’ll see how long that lasts.