A Business Guide to Oregon’s New Mobile Device Law

By Jihun Han, Political Affairs Manager, Oregon Association of REALTORS
If you use your smart phone or tablet to map the location of your next appointment or showing while driving, the State of Oregon has some new rules – and harsher fines – for you.
Starting October 1, 2017, law enforcement officers can pull you over and issue a hefty ticket if they see you using a mobile device for any reason while driving, even if you’re stopped in traffic or at a light or stop sign.
Proposed, passed and signed into law during the 2017 legislative session, HB 2597 effectively bans all electronic device use while operating a motor vehicle – texting, calling, social media, e-mails, and GPS navigation. It goes well beyond the state’s original 2009 law (and incremental amendments since) prohibiting phone calls and texting while driving.
The expanded law going into effect next month is designed to reduce the 495 fatalities in 2016 and 1,330 injuries from 2011-2015 attributed to distracted driving from mobile device use, according to the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT).
What it Means to You … and How to Adjust
On the surface, the new law appears to hinder a REALTOR’s ability to use the GPS navigation (“maps”) functionality of their smart phones to get to appointments and meetings, often at a moment’s notice. But just as REALTORS adjusted to the original law banning calls and texting, there are provisions in the new law that allow you to continue to use GPS navigation on your mobile device … namely and exclusively in a “hands-fee” mode.
Simply, if your device is mounted or otherwise fixed to your dashboard and/or connected to your vehicle’s Bluetooth signal to enable voice commands, you can follow a mapped course while driving … assuming you set that course before pulling away from the curb. It also is okay to use a single touch or swipe to active or deactivate your device while driving, and to call emergency services.
What to Expect if You Violate the Law
Drivers face significant fines for not complying with the new law. A first-time offense carries up to a $1,000 fine, can balloon to $2,500 the second time, and potentially incur jail time for a third offense. Law enforcement can stop you if they witness you touching an electronic device or if the device illuminates your face.
Despite taking effect on October 1, 2017, the law provides courts the option to waive first-time offenses if violators attend a “Distracted Driving Avoidance” course, but that option isn’t available until January 1, 2018.
For more information and details about the new law, check out this ODOT fact sheet.

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