Distracted driving penalties to increase dramatically in Oregon starting July 1

Starting on the 1st of July, drivers caught texting behind the wheel will face increased penalties in the state of Oregon.

After July 1st, repeated distracted driving offenders could face thousands of dollars in fines and even jail time.

From the Oregon Department of Transportation’s explanation of the new penalty schedule:

-First offense, not contributing to a crash: Class B violation, with a fine up to $1,000.
-Second offense, or first offense, if it contributed to a crash: Class A violation, with a fine up to $2,500.
-Third offense in ten years: Class B misdemeanor, with a fine up to $2,500 and potential for 6 months in jail.

There are a few cases where the distracted driving law will not apply, including the use of a CB radio, according to the Oregon DOT. These include:

  • When using hands-free or built-in devices, if you are 18 years of age or older.
  • Use of a single touch or swipe to activate or deactivate the device.
  • When parked safely, i.e., stopped in a designated parking spot. It is NOT legal to use the device when stopped at a stop light, stop sign, in traffic, etc.
  • While providing or summoning medical help and no one else is available to make the call.
  • Tow truck or bus drivers following the federal rules for CDL holders.
  • When using a two-way radio if you are a CB user, school bus driver, utility truck driver in scope of employment.
  • If you are a HAM radio operator age 18 years or older.

According to the Oregon Department of Transportation, distracted drivers are to blame for thousands of highway crashes: “From 2012-16 in Oregon, there were 10,814 crashes involving a distracted driver, resulting in 70 fatalities and 16,503 injuries.”

Oregon defines distracted driving as when “a driver diverts attention to something not related to driving that uses the driver’s eyes, ears or hands.”

Transportation Safety Division Administrator Troy Costales said, “”Distracted driving is an epidemic in Oregon, and the consequences can be deadly. Everyone using the transportation system, drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians alike, should put away the distractions when traveling to help eliminate these tragedies.”