New cell phone law comes into effect October 1

Medford, Ore. – This is the last week Oregon drivers can hold a cell phone while driving.

A new law goes into effect October first making it illegal to touch your phone while you’re at the wheel.

“You don’t want to hurt anybody else just to answer a simple text,” explained Beaverton Police Department officer Jeremy Shaw. That’s exactly what a new law going into effect this weekend wants to prevent.

The law clarifies Oregon’s hands-free driving regulations.

Beginning October first it will be illegal to hold any electronic device while driving–that includes phones tablets and GPS.

The change makes it easier for officers to enforce the law–but doesn’t stop you from using the phone completely.

“They can do anything they’ve normally been doing,” said Officer Shaw. “They just can’t have an electronic device in your hands.”

So what can you do? You can use a single swipe to turn a function of the device on or off, and you can still use hands free accessories.

“You can use it on speaker phone in like a mount or on your seat or something like that as long as it’s not in your hand,” said Shaw.

The Medford Police Department provided the following suggestions and reminders about the law:

  • If you must talk on a phone while driving, find a good hands-free system with voice controls. Learn to use it before you start driving to minimize distractions on the road.
  • Program destinations into your GPS before you start driving. If you’re shopping for a new GPS unit, find one that uses voice commands.
  • Using an electronic device while driving for any reason – even hands-free – is not allowed for people under age 18.
  • Remember that the intent of the law is to help make our roads safer and to potentially save lives.

The penalties for violating the law are also more substantial.

A first-time offense that doesn’t contribute to a crash has an automatic–or presumptive–fine of $260. However, that amount can to up or down if you don’t pay. The minimum fine if you contest is $130, the maximum is $1,000.

For a second offense, or if your first offense contributed to a crash, it’s a Class A violation, with a presumptive fine of $435. The minimum fine could be as low as $220, or as high as $2,500.

A third offense within ten years of the first two is a Class B misdemeanor, with a minimum fine of $2,000 and a maximum fine of $6,250. In addition, you could be sentenced to one year in jail.

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