Teen driving law eliminates distractions

« Back to the March 2008 edition

In Oregon, teens can no longer use cell phones or text messaging while driving, under a new law that went into effect at the start of this year.

Under the teen driving law, drivers younger than 18, who have student or instructional permits or provisional licenses, may not conduct calls with a cell phone, correspond by text messaging, type on a laptop or otherwise communicate with others using two-way devices. The law includes both hand-held and hands-free devices.

‘The message is very simple: when teens are driving, that is all they should be doing,’ said Rosalee Senger, regional traffic safety coordinator for the Oregon Department of Transportation. ‘Distracted driving is a real danger.’

According to Senger, car crashes are the leading cause of death for youth between ages 15 and 20. Oregon joined 16 other states and the District of Columbia with cell phone use bans applying to drivers with instruction permits and intermediate licenses.

The law does provide a few exceptions: teens may place emergency calls if no one else is in the car and teens involved in farming operations can continue to use two-way devices.

‘We encourage drivers to carry cell phones for emergency use, especially on longer trips and when traveling in winter weather conditions,’ said Senger. ‘However, you need to be focused on driving when you are behind the wheel.’

Oregon’s graduated license system started in 2000. During the first six months, a driver under the age of 18 cannot carry passengers younger than 20 who are not members of the driver’s immediate family. During the second six months, the driver is limited to three passengers younger than 20 who are not family members.

The teen cell phone law was adopted in 2007 by the Oregon Legislature to reduce injuries and fatalities caused by distracted young drivers.

A violation of the new law is a Class D traffic violation, a secondary traffic offense. Police officers will not be able to stop teen drivers unless it is connected to another traffic violation or another offense has been committed. The maximum fine for this offense is $97.

For more information, go online to the Oregon Driver and Motor Vehicle (DMV) Services Division at http://www.OregonDMV.com. To look at cell phone laws in other states, go to the Governor’s Highway Safety Association web site, http://www.ghsa.org/html/stateinfo/laws/cellphone_laws.html.

« Back to the March 2008 edition