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Hold the phone! New laws to improve transportation safety go into effect
01/10/2012
Drivers accustomed to sneaking a phone call in here and there — hoping they might get away with it —have few if any excuses now that a law modifying Oregon’s ban on cell phone use has gone into effect.  From child safety seats to motorcycle training to new bicycle signals, a number of transportation-related laws aimed at increasing safety on our roads went into effect on January 1.  

Cell phone use and texting while driving
For most drivers, it is already against the law to use a hand-held cell phone while driving in Oregon. The original law, however, allowed cell phone use “in the scope of the person’s employment if operation of the motor vehicle is necessary for the person’s job.” That exemption is removed with House Bill 3186 effective Jan. 1, 2012, so that the only drivers allowed to use a hand-held mobile communications device are those over 18 who are 1) operating a roadside assistance or tow vehicle or 2) operating a utility vehicle for the purpose of servicing a utility.
 
In addition, the bill outlaws texting for all drivers. In essence, as of January 1, it is illegal for nearly everyone to use a cell phone and/or text while driving, unless it is a hands-free device (no exemptions for drivers under age 18). The enrolled bill is available online. The violation is a Class D offense, with a new base rate of $110.

No texting and driving.
Child safety seats
This simple update lets child passengers weighing more than 40 pounds ride in an approved 5-point child safety system designed for a child weighing more than 40 pounds. Previously, Oregon law required a child passenger weighing more than 40 pound be secured in a booster seat using a lap or shoulder belt until age eight or 4’9” tall.  Learn more, and see a schedule for free child safety seat clinics, at www.childsafetyseat.org.
 
Motorcycle training
Effective Jan. 1, 2012, new motorcyclists 40 years and under must complete an ODOT-approved motorcycle safety course before DMV can issue a motorcycle endorsement. For information on Oregon’s approved motorcycle rider education courses, visit the TEAM Oregon Web site, www.team-oregon.org.
 
Bicycle signals
SB 130 adds bicycle-only signals to the list of Oregon’s traffic control devices.  As defined in SB 130, bicycles are expected to respond to these signals as a motorist would respond to a traditional traffic signal.  Bicycle signals are in use in Portland and Eugene, and Salem and Ashland are expected to add them in the next year. 
 
Flashing yellow arrow signals 
SB 130 also adds a definition for a flashing yellow arrow signal to Oregon law and describes how drivers are expected to respond to a flashing yellow arrow signal. Drivers facing a flashing yellow arrow signal may make a turn but must yield to other drivers in the intersection and to approaching traffic. More than 50 communities throughout the state have operational flashing yellow lights.