Oregon’s new distracted driving law and fines: ‘very tough’ on offenders

Starting Sunday, you can now be pulled over in Oregon for texting or talking while driving – and the initial fines reach up to $1,000.

University of Oregon Police Department spokesman Kelly McIver said the new law is “very tough.”

“It’s one of those things that everybody does nowadays. They’re tied to their phones or tied to their devices. There’s way too high a percentage of people distracted on the road,” he said.

Oregon’s new distracted driving law aims to suppress the increasing traffic accidents and deaths tied to texting or talking while driving. A report from the state’s Distracted Driving Task Force found that distracted driving causes one crash every three hours.

UOPD has issued two distracted driving citations stretching back to the beginning of 2016, according to McIver, and those were both tied to DUII arrests.

McIver said he expects police to issue more distracted driving tickets after the law comes into effect, and hopes the new law is “a good deterrent and will keep people’s eyes on the road and hands on the wheel.”


Tickets for first-time offenders will cost between $130 and $1,000 if it doesn’t involve a crash. But with a crash, the offender could be fined up to $2,500. A second, non-crash offense could cost $2,500. A third offense could cost $6,250 and a year in jail.

There are ways to get the fine waived. For a first-time offender, taking a distracted driving course can erase the fine but not the driving offense.

Here are some exceptions to the law:

  • If you’re over 18, you can still use a hands-free or built-in interface in your car, and you can only press or swipe those devices. No typing.
  • You need to be parked to use your phone. You can’t be stopped at a light or a stop sign.
  • You can legally use your phone to call 911.
  • Police, firefighters and EMS can use their phones while driving.

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Will Campbell

Will Campbell

I'm the Senior News Editor at the Emerald. I was born and raised in Vancouver, WA.