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Rules of the Road

Overview

A complete listing of Oregon’s rules of the road are found in the Oregon Driver Manual, which contains information about road signs, traffic laws, safety equipment and other information you need to know to drive in Oregon and to pass the standard knowledge test (for Class C non-commercial). Click here to access alternative forms of the manual, including Spanish and audio versions.  

This page provides some key highlights and recommendations for driving safely on Oregon roadways and complying with applicable laws.

Cell Phones & Hand Held Devices
It is illegal to use a mobile communication device to talk, text or type on a keyboard while operating a motor vehicle. Drivers 18 and older may use a hands-free accessory, but best (and safest) practice is just to wait until you are finished driving to use your cell phone or other hand-held device. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommends that a driver use these devices only when the vehicle is stopped and the transmission shift level is in park.
 
Note: Persons under 18 years of age are not allowed to "operate a motor vehicle while using a mobile communication device." A mobile communication device is defined as "a text messaging device or a wireless, two-way communication device designed to receive and transmit voice or text communication," including hands-free accessories. It is a primary offense and a conviction counts toward the Provisional Driver Improvement Program.

Impaired Driving
In Oregon, a person is guilty of DUII (Driving Under the Influence of Intoxicants) if they drive while their abilities are impaired by alcohol, a controlled substance or inhalant or a combination of such substances. This includes many controlled substances such as marijuana, cocaine and other illegal drugs, and various narcotics with or without a prescription. Impaired drivers not only risk there own safety but the safety of others, and they risk arrest. A conviction for DUII comes with many consequences both financial and legal. 
 
Drivers arrested for DUII are required under Oregon’s Implied Consent Laws to submit to a breath test to determine their level of alcohol intoxication, or chemical test to determine if they are under the influence of a controlled substance. If a breath test or blood test shows that their blood alcohol content is over the legal limit (.08 for adults 21 and over) their driving privileges will be suspended. However, if they refuse the test their driving privileges will be suspended for a much longer period of time. 

A police officer who is certified under the state’s Drug Evaluation and Classification Program may also request a urine test if it is suspected that the person is driving under the influence of a controlled substance, an inhalant or any combination of these substances.
 
Click here for more information on the law along with the fines and possible jail sentences.

Prescription and Over-the-Counter Drugs
Several prescription and over-the-counter drugs can have a moderate to severe affect on driving ability including sleep aids, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, muscle relaxants, anti-anxiety drugs and some anti-depressants. Driving When You Are Taking Medications is a brochure that provides practical advice and safe driving tips.

Distracted Driving
According to the  National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, each day in the United States more than 9 people are killed and more than 1,060 people are injured in crashes that are reported to involve a distracted driver. Distracted driving is operating a motor vehicle while doing another activity that takes your attention away from driving. Distracted driving can significantly increase the chance of a motor vehicle accident.
 
There are four main types of distraction:
  • Visual - taking your eyes off the road
  • Manual - taking your hands off the wheel
  • Cognitive - taking your mind off the activity of driving
  • Auditory - blocking out important sounds

Distracted driving activities include things like talking on a phone or blue tooth device, texting, eating, grooming, applying cosmetics, interacting with passengers, listening to loud music, reviewing a map, operating a computing device, and searching the contents of a briefcase or purse. Using in-vehicle technologies (such as navigation systems) can also be a source of distraction. While any of these distractions can endanger the driver and others, texting while driving is especially dangerous because it involves three of the four main types of distraction listed above.

Drowsy Driving
According to sleep experts, drowsiness is the final step before falling asleep. Sleep represents an abrupt shut down of neural processes that allow us to perceive our environment. At one moment we are awake and can interact with the world, the next we are asleep and completely cut off.
 
The state of drowsiness itself is a significant impairment while driving and has been shown in several studies to be as dangerous as driving drunk. In driving performance testing, 17 hours of sustained wakefulness was equivalent to driving with a blood alcohol content of 0.05%.
 
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that each year drowsy driving results in 1,550 deaths and 71,000 injuries, with 55% of these crashes involving drivers 25 years old and younger. In fact, the most at risk group are young men ages 19 years to 26 years.
 
Drowsiness causes: slow reaction times, impaired judgment and vision, decline in attention, decreased alertness, increased moodiness and aggressive behavior, problems with processing information and short term memory.

Click here for more information on recognizing, preventing and handling drowsy driving.

Safety Belts & Child Restraints
Safety Belts
Oregon law requires that all motor vehicle operators and passengers be properly secured with a safety belt or safety harness. Child passengers must be restrained in approved child safety seats. More importantly, the best defense in the event of a car crash is a safety belt. It can save your life and prevent severe injuries. 

For adult drivers, the safety belt should fit snugly and be worn low and tight across the hips and not across the stomach. The shoulder belt should come over the collarbone, away from the neck and cross over the breastbone. It is dangerous to wear a safety belt behind the back because it offers no protection.

Child Restraints
Young passengers must be restrained in approved child safety seats until they weigh forty pounds or reach the upper weight limit for the car seat. Infants must ride rear-facing until they reach both one year of age and twenty pounds. Children over forty pounds or who have reached the upper weight limit for their forward-facing car seat must use boosters until they reach 4'9" tall or age eight and the adult belt fits correctly. Effective January 2012, the law now allows the continued use of child seats up to the highest weight limit allowed by the seat manufacturer, as an alternative to boosters, for children over forty pounds but under age eight or less than 4’9” tall.

Proper installation of a child safety seat is not as easy as it looks, and an improperly installed child seat can do more harm than good.

Click here to find a child safety seat inspection station near you.

Click here for more information on Oregon’s occupant protection program, including help with car seats and tips for using safety belts and child seats properly.

Move Over or Slow Down Law
Since the passing of Oregon's Move Over or Slow Down Law, drivers must safely merge to the left or slow down when approaching the rear of an emergency vehicle, tow truck, roadside assistance vehicles with amber, red, or blue flashers activated, and police, fire, and ambulance vehicles. In this case, slow down means reducing your vehicles speed by at least five miles per hour below the posted speed of the roadway. The fine for violating the law is significant, even higher if the location is within a Safety Corridor, School Zone or Work Zone.

School Zone Law
According to Oregon's School Zone Law, the speed limit is 20 mph or less in school zones in any of the following situations:
  • Anytime a yellow light on a school speed sign is flashing
  • Between 7 am and 5 pm on school days
  • Crosswalks near school grounds when children are present
Vehicle Mirrors
Drivers must have a good view of the front, sides and rear of the vehicle. All vehicles are built with an internal rear view mirror and most vehicles are equipped with left and right side exterior mirrors. Drivers should adjust their rear view and side mirrors to ensure that they have adequate visibility before driving.  
 
Note:
Side mirrors do not eliminate “blind” spots so drivers should look over their shoulder before changing lanes.

Related Information
Additional information that may be relevant includes:
  • AT&T is leading a campaign to get people to pledge to never text and drive.
  • DMV compiles with all of the Oregon laws that govern vehicle registration, driver licensing and the rules of the road into a single publication called the Vehicle Code Book (published as needed vs. annually).
  • Information on current Oregon laws is available at the Oregon Revised Statutes Web site.
  • The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Web site provides information on distracted and impaired driving, safety belts and child passenger safety.
  • The ODOT Roadway Safety Program Web site provides useful brochures and publications.
  • The ODOT Traffic Law Enforcement Program provides traffic law brochures and other media.