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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Oregon Legislature. This is a venue for political and policy coverage of the state government in Salem and its impact on the people of Oregon.

New Oregon Distracted Driving Law Takes Effect October 1

Chris Lehman
Northwest News Network
Oregon Senate President Peter Courtney holds up a smartphone at a state Capitol press conference about the new distracted driving law.

A new law that takes aim at distracted driving goes into effect October 1 in Oregon.

It’s long been illegal to text or talk on your phone behind the wheel without using a hands-free device. But an Oregon court ruled in 2015 that the law technically didn’t apply to things like uploading photos to social media or reading a book on your e-reader.

The new law clarifies that it’s illegal to drive while holding any electronic device.

Senate President Peter Courtney held up a smartphone at a press conference outside the state Capitol.

“What we’re trying to do here is not over-regulate or tell people how to live their lives,” he said. “We’re just trying to tell them that this thing is every bit as dangerous as a bottle of liquor.”

The new law also includes stiffer penalties for drivers ticketed for holding an electronic device while behind the wheel. Hands-free phone calls are still okay for drivers 18 and older.