Distracted Driving in Oregon – part 1

Anyone who stands on a street corner and watches cars pass is soon struck by how many drivers are talking on their phones. Is it one in three drivers? One in eight? Either way, the numbers are too high and they carry deadly consequences.

A recent article from the CBC contains chilling statistics for two Canadian provinces: “Of the 269 people killed on the roads in the last year in B.C., distracted driving led to 77 deaths. That was second only to speed, which was a factor in 78 deaths. Alcohol and drugs were blamed for 63 deaths. In Ontario, it’s a similar story, with distracted driving related fatalities in 2013 surpassing the number of people killed due to both impairment and speed.”

The available statistics for Oregon look better, but show that there’s still a serious problem. In 2012, seven people were killed on Oregon’s roads in accidents involving distracted driving, down from 15 the prior year. In the USA, 3,328 people died in accidents caused by distracted drivers in 2012. It’s possible these statistics understate the threat because the cause of an accident may be unclear in many fatal accidents.

In Oregon, driving while using a hand-held phone – probably the major cause of distracted driving – is illegal. Drivers under 18 can’t use any form of mobile communications device. Older drivers can use a speaker phone or wireless system, but can’t text. These are “primary violations” so police can pull over drivers for violations without believing that there are any other illegal conduct.