Loophole gets Oregon drivers around ban of talking on cellphone while driving
Oregon joins 6 other states that have a similar law in the books that prevents driving while talking on a cellphone. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says that Oregon is the only state with such broad language in the law that allows for this specific job-related loophole. The other states that ban driving and phone use allow an exception by emergency responders and tow truck drivers. The Oregon law also bans driving while sending text messages. Those over 18 are allowed to drive and talk on a phone using a hands free accessory. One of the chief architects of the bill, Rep. Carolyn Tomei, said that compromises were needed to get the bill passed. She said that the intent of the business use exemption was to cover those whose principle workplace is their vehicle. "It was pretty clear in our minds that nobody can use a hand-heldcell phone while driving unless their vehicle is part of their job Â—the tow truck driver, the bus driver, taxi drivers, delivery people,"Tomei said.
Some police officials in the state have already been asked by drivers if their job qualifies them for an exemption. Sgt. Derel Schulz (No, not the 'I know noth....ing' Sgt. Schulz!) of the Eugene Oregon traffic division was asked by a nursery owner if he was allowed to drive and talk on his cellphone. The officer felt that the exemption would be allowed since the landscapers' vehicles are needed for their job. Sgt. Schulz says that the law is off to a good start despite the issues involved. In 2006, 2007 and 2008 15 people were killed in a car crash where a cellphone was considered to have played a role. Cellphones were a factor in 1,048 crashes over the same three year period. State officials are hoping that with the new law will come fewer distractions leading to fewer deaths and accidents.