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Driven to Distraction?

OPB | May 4, 2009 9 a.m. | Updated: Sept. 10, 2013 8:51 p.m.

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It’s not uncommon to see drivers with one hand on the wheel and the other holding a phone. Perhaps you’ve even done it yourself? (I’m taking the fifth here.) If Oregon lawmakers pass HB 2377, it will be illegal to use a hand-held cell while driving anywhere on the west coast. Similar laws in California and Washington went into effect in 2008. Both states allow drivers to use “hands-free” devices if they are over 18. While Californians can be pulled over if a cop sees them holding a phone, Washington made driving while yapping on a hand-held a secondary offense (meaning they have to be pulled over for speeding, say, before they can be fined for cell phone use). The Oregon law, awaiting senate approval, would follow California’s more strict example.

Some say the proposed ban is unnecessary, making the case that talking on the phone does not lead to unsafe driving. Others argue the law doesn’t go far enough, pointing to research (pdf) that shows drivers are equally impaired whether they are talking on a phone in their hand or using a hands-free device. One group that’s sure to benefit from the bill is retailers. If other states are any indication, Oregon’s proposed law could act as a stimulus for stores that sell hands-free devices. (OPB’s intrepid reporter Pete Springer asked us if a velcro strap — or a rubber band! — would count. We’re not sure.)

Do you talk on the phone while driving? Do you use a device that allows you to keep both hands free?  Have you ever been in accident that as a result of cell phone use? How would a ban on hand-held cell phones in the car affect you?

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