Salem lawmaker proposes bill that would increase penalty for dis - KPTV - FOX 12

Salem lawmaker proposes bill that would increase penalty for distracted driving

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A bill proposed by Senate President Peter Courtney would make penalties for distracted driving similar to those for drunken driving.

Courtney, a Democrat who represents the Salem area, crafted a bill that would make distracted driving punishable by up to a year in jail and thousands of dollars in fines.

"The magnitude of this is out of sight," said Courtney.  "And yet it's just a tiny traffic infraction. Just a little tiny fine.  And yet it can kill you."

Oregon State Trooper Michael Kendoll, who specializes in spotting impaired drivers, said distracted driving is coming to rival drunken driving as the cause of major freeway crashes.

Kendoll said he believes stiffer penalties could dissuade drivers from using their smartphones while driving, which is one of the offenses he sees the most, and potentially cut down on accidents.

"I think it will definitely make a substantial difference," said Kendoll.

Courtney said he doubts he has the votes to get his bill passed the way it is currently written, but said any increased penalty for distracted driving is a step in the right direction.

"You're talking about education here. And you're talking about prevention here," said Courtney.  "You get enough people to say, 'You know, I'm going to shut my phone off because if I get caught, it's not worth it.'"

The current maximum penalty for distracted driving is a $160 fine, which is $100 less that the penalty for following too closely.

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