Can Drivers Use Their Cell Phones At Stop Lights?

As of July 1, 2018, drivers can be fined $1,000 for texting at a stop sign or light. It is a violation of Oregon’s new Distracted Driving Law. That’s just for your first offense. The second offense goes up to $2,500. A third offense can bring the same monetary penalty plus time in jail. The only time you can be sitting in the driver seat and using your cell phone is if you are in a parking stall in a parking lot and the vehicle is stopped.

The Distracted Driving Law passed during the 2017 legislative session, was brought about because of the high amount of fatalities in Oregon that are caused by distracted driving. Most of the law went into effect on October 1, 2017. Basically, it is illegal to drive while holding or using a mobile electronic device (e.g. cell phone, tablet, GPS, laptop). Following are exemptions to the law and fines.

Exemptions from Distracted Driving Laws

These are known as “affirmative defenses”, which means you may need to provide evidence to the court. This law does not apply to the following circumstances:

  • Using hands-free or built-in devices, if 18 years of age or older.
  • Use of a single touch or swipe to activate or deactivate the device or a function of the device.
  • Making a call to provide or summon medical help when no one else is available to do so.
  • When parked safely, i.e., stopped at the side of the road or in a designated parking spot and the vehicle is turned off.
  • Commercial vehicle use of an Electronic Logging Device, as required by federal law.
  • Using a two-way radio: CB users, school bus drivers, utility truck drivers in the scope of employment.
  • Use of a mobile electronic device by an ambulance or emergency vehicle operator in the scope of employment.
  • Use of a mobile electronic device by police, fire, EMS providers in the scope of employment (can include when in a personal vehicle if, for example, when responding to an emergency call).
  • Use of a HAM radio, age 18 years or older.
  • Use of a two-way radio device while operating a vehicle wider than the lane of travel, a vehicle transporting livestock or a vehicle requiring a slow-moving vehicle emblem under ORS 815.110 and the device facilitates the safe operation of the vehicle.

Fines for Distracted Driving in Oregon

  • First offense, not contributing to a crash: Class B violation, fine up to $1,000.
  • Second offense, or first offense, if it contributed to a crash: Class A violation, fine up to $2,000.
  • Third offense in ten years: Class B misdemeanor, fine up to $2,500 and up to 6 months in jail.