Getting caught texting and driving could hurt a lot more if certain bills pass the Oregon legislature.
Hermiston municipal judge Thomas Creasing outlined new traffic-related laws being considered by the legislature during a city council work session Monday.
He said both the Senate and House are considering upping the penalties for a first-time offense to as much as $2,000. Senate Bill 2 as currently written would make texting and driving a misdemeanor that could include jail time for second and third offenses.
“It’s basically treating it as another form of drunk driving,” Creasing said.
The bills in question would also expand the penalties beyond texting to cover any operation of a “mobile electronic device” while driving. That includes checking Facebook on a tablet, inputting directions into a GPS, taking pictures with a phone and other hands-on use of apps that are not currently illegal in Oregon but are still a distraction.
Creasing said he had his doubts about whether Senate Bill 2 would pass in its current form, but he did believe that the definition of distracted driving was going to be expanded and fines would be going up even if it stays a violation instead of a misdemeanor. He said people have appeared in his court on their third offense for texting and driving, so he can “understand Salem’s interest” in making the consequences much more serious.
House Bill 2460 would act as a deterrent against failing to stop for school buses that are stopped with lights flashing. The bill would permit buses to include cameras that would catch the license plate number of vehicles that illegally pass while the lights flash, and would permit law enforcement to issue citations based on that video evidence.
Senate Bill 556 would make driving with a dog on the driver’s lap an offense punishable by a maximum fine of $250.
A variety of bills up for consideration this session relate to driving while intoxicated. Proposed laws include creating a ballot measure that would amend the state constitution to allow sobriety checkpoints, allowing for blood tests to see if a motorist is impaired, expanding the definition of driving while intoxicated to include any substance that impairs the driver and requiring treatment reports on individuals convicted of driving while intoxicated.
House Bill 2599 would remove the requirement for wearing a helmet while operating a motorcycle for anyone over the age of 21, while two other bills would allow motorcycles and mopeds to travel on the shoulder of a highway or in the same lane as a car to pass vehicles during a traffic jam.
Senate Bill 34 would require cars to move over when possible for any motor vehicle with its hazard lights on, not just emergency vehicles parked on the side of the road. Other bills address “left lane hogs” by requiring vehicles to stay in the right lane except while passing or making a left turn.
Contact Jade McDowell at email@example.com or 541-564-4536.