Effective January 1, 2014, with Oregon Senate Bill 9, the traffic offense of operating a motor vehicle while using a mobile communication device changed from a Class D violation to a Class C violation, carrying a fine of from $142 to $500. The fine’s increase is aimed at reducing the number of crashes that involve a distracted driver talking on a handheld phone or texting.

Cell Phone Distracts Driver Causing Crash

Distracted driving related to the unlawful use of a mobile communications device was a contributing factor in a single vehicle rollover traffic crash along Interstate 84 about thirty miles east of Baker City. The crash injured two people and affected westbound traffic for about two hours.

On January 15, 2014 at approximately 9:04 a.m., a 1999 Toyota Tacoma pickup driven by a 21 year old woman from Sherwood, Oregon was westbound on Interstate 84 near milepost 334. The driver was reportedly distracted while trying to use her cell phone negotiating a right curve when the pickup drifted to the left and collided twice with the center concrete barrier. The pickup rolled once coming to rest on its wheels. A canopy on the back of the pickup was heavily damaged and the contents inside were strewn across the freeway.

Fortunately, the driver was extricated by responding firefighters and transported by ambulance to Saint Alphonsus Medical Center in Baker City with only minor injuries. The passenger climbed out of the pickup, also with minor injuries.

The outcome for driver and passenger could have been much worse. In Oregon from 2009 to 2011, nine people died in crashes involving a driver who was reportedly using a cell phone at the time of the crash, and 673 people were injured.

According to a 2013 study by the National Safety Council, motor vehicle crashes involving cellphones are “vastly underreported” in national statistics on fatal automobile crashes. The NSC estimated that 25% of all motor vehicle crashes involve cellphone use.