Cracking down on distracted driving will save lives

By Connor Patrick

With the advent of smartphones, distracted driving has become a glaring problem around the world. According to the Oregon Department of Transportation, 1330 injuries and 14 deaths directly resulted from cell-phone related distracted driving crashes from 2011-15. These numbers are just from the state of Oregon.

The state has addressed its feeble cell phone laws and is cracking down on distracted driving. Effective October 1st, Oregon will put into effect a new, strict distracted driving policy.

Previously, the law discouraged cell phone use but had many loopholes and was basically only enforced for drivers that were obviously texting or talking on the phone. Texting or calling (without a hands-free device) while driving held a $160 fine. When the new law is implemented, the presumptive fine will be $260, with a rapidly increasing cost for repeat offenders. A third time offender could face a misdemeanor charge with jail time and/or a $2500 fine.

These substantial consequences should deter drivers from breaking the law and be more conscious of their driving habits. With the new law in place, drivers must not interact with their phones while driving. It includes all functions of the phone, even the navigation system.

Aside from a momentary touch or swipe, drivers are prohibited from touching their cell phone. The goal is to keep hands on the steering wheel at all times, even at stop signs or traffic lights. The driver must be parked before they pick up their phone.

The only way to make phone calls is with a hands-free device, which are only legal for drivers over the age of 18. This is undoubtedly inconvenient, especially for young drivers who are required to pull over to a stop before making a call, but it is necessary and important for public safety. Approximately 1 in 4 US car crashes involve a cell phone.

Although it may not seem like a big deal, cell phones are accidents waiting to happen on the road. Anyone who breaks this law is risking the life of everyone on the road, as well as their vehicle, wallet, and criminal record. The new Oregon distracted driving law is an important step towards the ultimate goal of preventing crashes and saving lives.

Driver distracted due to texting while at the wheel. (Photo courtesy of Port City Daily).

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