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Driving, Talking and Texting in Oregon Featured

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Driving Distracted. That's what it is called when you are operating a motor vehicle and doing something else that takes your attention away from the road. Putting on make up. Shaving. Yes, I have actually seen guys with their cordless shavers exceeding the speed limit, late for work, looking in the rear view mirror to make sure they don't miss a spot. Reaching in the bag and looking for that last french fry. Changing the radio station or searching for a song on a CD. Smoking. All of this MONKEY BUSINESS and more pull your attention away from the most important activity that requires your complete attention.

Cell phones, smart phones, personal mp3 players, and other hand or palm devices are attached to us like an extra appendage. It won't be long before science figures out a way to plug us directly in. Meanwhile we still interface with them through hearing, sight and touch, all of which are required for driving an automobile safely.


I'm not going to bore or scare you with all the statistics of how many people die each month or year in car accidents. All I can tell you is I have personally been a near victim of the distracted driver. As a pedestrian in a crosswalk with the right of way I had to jump out of the way to avoid being hit by a driver so engrossed in her telephone conversation she ran a red light and crossed tracks barely escaping being hit by a 50 ton transit train. The driver kept on going, oblivious to what had just happened.

Auto insurance claims departments are keeping track of how many accidents involve a distracted driver. The figures are staggering. Oregon passed in 2010 one of the strictest driving while distracted laws in the nation. However, I still see several drivers a day talking on the phone and texting. Because of a loophole or ambiguity in the law, it was revised and clarified that only emergency personnel and public utility workers while on duty may use cell phones up to the ear. All others must use a hands free device. Under 18 are restricted from use entirely, with or without a hands-free device. The ambiguity before under the 2010 law was that self-employed driver who depended on driving a lot for a living were exempt from the hands-free law. As of January 1, 2012, the law is very clear, all drivers, including self-employed business owners who use their cars to conduct business, must obey the hands-free device law or be cited for driving distracted.

Hands free devices have really come down in price. A driver who must communicate through these devices has no excuse to purchase and use one. The cost of a ticket and the increased cost to car insurance would pay for ten hands-free devices. In addition to fumbling around with the device and your phone while driving, I would suggest that you make it a habit to prepare all of that hardware before you even start the engine. And, if you can avoid the use of that technology altogether, do so. You just might save your life or someone else's. Pay attention to the road, to the traffic control devices. Watch out for pedestrians and other drivers who are careless with the use of their telephones. Your reaction time is impaired if you have to figure out how to put down your phone while avoiding a collision. No one wants to just drop their phone on the ground.

Stop MONKEYING around. Start paying attention to the road. It just might be the life of someone you love that gets saved.

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