SALEM, Ore. — Oregon drivers soon can be pulled over for not only texting and talking on their cellphones, but also for navigating, using social media and any other “hands-on” cellphone and electronics use.

The changes, which begin Oct. 1, call for repeat offenders to face steeper fines and as much as a year in jail.

Officials are hoping the changes will help officers nab reckless drivers and curb dangerous distracted driving behaviors, the Statesman Journal reported (http://stjr.nl/2hdW1Ck ).

Wording on the previous cellphone driving law made texting and talking on the phone the only primary distracted driving offenses, meaning if an officer spotted someone behind the wheel reading a Kindle or scrolling through Facebook, they could not pull over the driver solely for that.

The new law makes it illegal to drive in Oregon while holding or using any electronic device, including cellphones, tablets, GPS or laptops.

Hands-free and built-in devices are allowed under the law.

Other exemptions include those making medical emergency calls, truck and bus drivers following federal rules, two-way radio use by school drivers and utility drivers during in the scope of their employment, police, fire, ambulance and emergency vehicle operators during the scope of their employment and ham radio operators.

A first-time distracted driving offenders not contributing to a crash face a presumptive fine of $260, with a maximum fine of $1,000. Starting on Jan. 1, the court may suspend the fine for first-time offenders if the driver completes an approved distracted driving avoidance course within four months.

Although the fine would be suspended, the violation would still remain on the offender’s driving record.

A second-time offense or one involving a crash carries a presumptive fine of $435 and a maximum fine of $2,500.

Committing a third distracted driving offense in a 10-year span is considered a misdemeanor. The minimum fine is $2,000, but repeat offenders could face a $6,250 fine and up to one year in jail.


Information from: Statesman Journal, http://www.statesmanjournal.com