We tend to hear about the strict penalties for drunk driving offenses in Oregon. But there are other criminal matters that occur behind the wheel that the state takes very seriously. The penalties for distracted driving have become increasingly harsh over the last few years in an effort to prevent accidents and fatalities on Oregon roads.
At any given daylight moment across the country, approximately 660,000 drivers use cell phones or other electronic devices while they drive. It’s been a real problem in Oregon. In June of 2018, traffic deaths increased by 18% from the year prior. At least a portion of those fatalities, said the state’s Department of Transportation, can be attributed to driver inattention.
Although distracted driving can involve a number of behaviors, one of the most common is the use of cell phones and other electronic devices. Texting, calling, navigating, and other activities all require a driver’s attention — which makes it difficult for them to focus completely on the road. Although technology is now an essential part of our lives, Oregon lawmakers have made it clear that these devices should play no part in the driving experience.
And they mean business. The penalties for distracted driving violations actually increased substantially in July 2018. Even if you’re a first-time offender, there’ll be no leniency for you. Being caught violating Oregon’s distracted driving laws for the first time can still result in a fine of up to $1,000. If your first offense involved a crash or you violate the law for a second time, the fine can increase to $2,500. And if you’re a repeat offender, attorneys may need to get involved; you could face both the steeper fine and up to six months in jail.
To some, this may seem like overkill. But state officials are taking these criminal matters seriously for a reason. These behaviors contribute to easily preventable accidents. One decision to check your email at a red light or fiddle with your GPS while in traffic could result in a horrific crash that could change the entire course of your life.
The best way to avoid being fined or even jailed for these criminal matters is simple: don’t engage in these behaviors. If you need to use a GPS, make sure it’s a permanent fixture in your car that you can operate hands-free. Otherwise, all electronic devices should be put away for your entire ride. If you absolutely need to use a device, you can pull off the road and park in a safe spot to do so. All other manipulations of hand-held electronic devices can be considered to be in violation of state laws.
Even if you believe you can get away with sending a quick text in traffic, don’t do it. The potential punishments you’ll face for these criminal matters are steep enough as it is, but the potential safety risk you’ll take by engaging in these behaviors is even more substantial. We all make mistakes, of course. But don’t let your split-second choice to check your phone put your future in jeopardy.
For more information on distracted driving laws or to schedule a consultation with a reputable lawyer, please contact us today.