Portland police: Be ready for bigger fines for distracted drivin - KPTV - FOX 12

Portland police: Be ready for bigger fines for distracted driving

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Starting Sunday, drivers holding their phones or any other electronic device behind the wheel in Oregon could get slapped with a hefty fine.

The new law, officially known as Oregon House Bill 2597, is somewhat similar to a law that recently took effect in Washington state.

Drivers will not be able to use their hands to use cell phones, tablets, GPS devices, stream music or anything else that's electronic.

The rules are even stricter for drivers under the age of 18. There's no using any of these devices while driving at all for underage drivers, even though adults can take advantage of hands-free devices.

There are two big exceptions to the law that most drivers should know about. The first is that drivers can still use communications devices that are built into cars, like an in-dash navigation system. Drivers are also allowed to make a single swipe to activate or deactivate a device or app while behind the wheel.

During a news conference Wednesday, officials with the Portland Police Bureau reinforced the message on another new part of the law - drivers caught violating the new regulations can expect to pay at least 50 percent more than the cost of the old fine.

When someone is caught breaking the law, the first fine is going up from the current $160 to $265, as long as there was not a crash involved. A second offense or a first offense with a crash could cost a driver $435.

A third offense in 10 years will now be elevated to a Class-B misdemeanor, which comes with a penalty ranging from a minimum of $2,000 to a maximum of six months in jail.

PPB Traffic Detail Supervisor Ty Engstrom said that at the end of the day this law is all about improving safety in a world that seems to only be getting more distracted.

“Looking at this bill, there are some pretty steep fines and some life-changing, or at least life-alternating consequences for getting caught driving while using an electronic device of some sort,” he said. "I would hope that just hearing about this and seeing what kind of consequences could come, not just these monetary values and not just the chance of possibly one day going to jail because you were using your phone in the car, but the fact that it is dangerous, and you could hurt somebody else or you could hurt yourself, hopefully, all those things combined will tug at the heartstrings (of drivers) and get them to stop doing it."

Engstrom added that the bureau is not implementing any special enforcement plans for the new law and that officers are still reviewing all instances in which it would be enforced, noting that no law could be written that explicitly outlines every situation.

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