Democrat Herald Editorial: Distracted-driving law is well-timed

From the Albany Democrat Herald:

Nationally, the number of fatal car wrecks is on the rise, and that trend also is true in Oregon. No one knows for sure the reasons for the increase, but everyone has a pretty good guess: It’s because we’re distracted as never before when we buckle ourselves into the driver’s seat. 

So the timing seems just right for Oregon’s new distracted-driving law, which went into effect on Sunday. 

Under the new law, it’s illegal to hold phones or other electronic devices while driving. That means no texting and no phone calls unless your vehicle has a hands-free system in place.

The new law, House Bill 2597, also closes loopholes in the current law by addressing all types of electronic devices, not just cellular phones. 

Rep. Andy Olson of Albany was the chief sponsor of the legislation. Olson, a former Oregon State Police officer, knows firsthand about the damage caused by distracted drivers — damage that simply doesn’t have to happen if drivers stay focused on their first responsibility.

“Nationally, one in four vehicle accidents involve distracted driving,” Olson said last week in a news story about the new law. “It’s a major concern.”

“The law doesn’t say you can’t use them, you just can’t have them in your hand,” Olson said. “You can still swipe something on or off. We just don’t want you holding the device. That’s the key.”

So, for example, you can still use your smartphone as a navigation device, but be sure to type in the address before you start your vehicle. While you’re on the road, it’s strictly hands-off.

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