Distracted Driving in Oregon: What Laws are Being Considered?

Two distracted driving bills are currently being considered by Oregon lawmakersDriving while distracted by mobile devices has become an increasingly serious issue in Oregon and across the nation. The Corson & Johnson Law Firm has many catastrophic injury cases that were caused by distracted driving. In fact, some of the victims in these cases died as a result of drivers paying more attention to their phones than the road. The problem is only getting worse.

Let’s take a look at the new laws Oregon lawmakers are considering.

Senate Bill Includes Imprisonment as Penalty

In early 2017, Oregon Senate President Peter Courtney called for harsher penalties for distracted driving. He sponsored a Senate bill, SB 2 A, which would amend distracted driving laws by:

  • Increasing the scope of the law to include not just communication devices, but any mobile electronic device.
  • Increasing the maximum fine for the first offense from $500 to $2,000.
  • Adding a penalty for a second offense to be up to six months of imprisonment and/or a maximum fine of $2,500.
  • Adding subsequent offenses that could lead to one-year imprisonment and/or a maximum fine of $6,250.
  • Allowing first-time offenders to take a distracted driving course to avoid the fine.

As of April 2017, SB 2 A was referred to the Senate’s Ways and Means Committee.

House Bill Offers Leaner Penalties for Distracted Driving

In February 2017, members of the House of Representatives drafted House Bill 2597, which, like SB 2 A, applies to any mobile electronic device. But HB 2597 significantly lessens the penalties proposed in SB 2 A:

  • HB 2597 has no penalties involving imprisonment.
  • A first conviction would result in a Class B traffic violation and a maximum fine of $500.
  • Second and subsequent convictions within a 10 year period result in a Class A traffic violation and a maximum fine of $2,000.

Next Steps on HB 2597

On May 1, 2017, the House passed the bill by a vote of 46 to 13. The Senate Judiciary Committee held a public hearing on HB 2597 on May 24, 2017 and the bill was subsequently referred, without recommendation, to the Senate Rules Committee on June 6, 2017.

  • If approved by the Senate Rules Committee, HB 2597 will be sent to the Oregon Senate for a vote. If passed, the bill will go to the governor for signing.
  • If the bill is not approved, the bill will go back to the house for further revisions.

As this issue has been declared an emergency, HB 2597 would go into effect as of October 1, 2017.

How Do You Feel About Distracted Driving?

With these bills still under Senate review, Oregon residents still have the opportunity to voice their opinions. We encourage you to contact your Senator and let him or her know how you feel about SB 2 A, HB 2597 and the distracted driving issue. We all need to work together to make Oregon’s roads safer.