The National Safety Council has designated April as Distracted Driving Awareness Month. With motor vehicle fatalities up 14 percent since 2014 (more than 40,000 people lost their lives in motor vehicle crashes in 2017,) it is more important than ever to remember that if your hands are holding anything other than the steering wheel, the odds of your causing a crash raise exponentially. According to the Oregon Department of Transportation, a Distracted Driving crash happens in this state every 2.5 hours – that’s nearly 10 crashes a day.
Given the dangers of distracted driving, the Oregon Legislature enacted more stringent restrictions that went into effect on October 1, 2017. So while it has long been illegal to text or talk on a phone without using a hands-free device, until October 2017 the law did not technically ban things like using social media or reading a book on an e-reader. Not smart, sure, but until October 2017, such activities were not illegal. The new law clarifies that holding ANY electronic device while driving is not legal and it carries significantly stiffer penalties.
The first offense, if it does not result in a crash, carries with it a $1,000 maximum fine. The second time, or if the first time results in a crash, the driver can be fined up to $2,500. And the third violation within 10 years results in a fine of up to $2,500 and a sentence of up to 6 months in jail. Add to this the possibility of a civil lawsuit, as well as significant increases in the driver’s insurance premiums, and it suddenly should no longer be important to answer that text or to take and post a photo of something interesting seen while driving down the street.
Use new technology wisely, and when you drive, use hands-free tools that are readily available. Better yet, let voice mail do its job, let the baby cry until you can pull over safely and save your lunch for when you can find a nice bench. Life is too precious to let five seconds of technology or other distraction change it forever.
If you or a loved one have questions about distracted driving, call Kline Law Offices at 503-224-6246.