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Texting Ban Impact: Oregon Sees Minimal Citations Despite Legislation

In the state of Oregon, drivers are not permitted to text while behind the wheel. Since January 1, 2010, texting has been a primary offense. This means that police can pull someone over just for sending a text message even if the driver is not breaking any other laws or doing anything else wrong. 

Our Portland accident attorneys know that Oregon is one of 39 states that has a texting ban in place.  Unfortunately, while these texting bans were promoted as ways to save lives by preventing distracted driving accidents, a new article published in USA Today indicates that few citations are actually issued to texting drivers throughout the United States. This means there may be lots of drivers in Oregon who are breaking the law and getting away with it.

Texting Bans Nab Few Drivers

According to USA Today, some states are better than others at issuing citations for texting and driving, with law enforcement giving out more than 1,000 citations each year in certain locations. In other states, however, law enforcement gives out very few tickets even when texting and driving is illegal and is classified as a primary offense.

The number of tickets is not just low it’s very low, with only one citation issued per day on average. With the AAA’s Traffic Safety Culture Index indicating that as many as 35 percent of drivers read texts and 27 percent sent texts while driving in the prior month, obviously there are many drivers who are breaking the texting laws who are not being ticketed for violations.  This is true throughout the United States, including in Oregon where local police tend to write more citations for texting than state police do.

The Challenges in Enforcing Texting Bans

There are many potential reasons why so few texting citations are issued despite laws prohibiting texting while driving. One issue is that the laws are relatively new and are still evolving. Police need time to develop effective ways to enforce the laws and to make sure that they are catching texting drivers.

It is also harder for law enforcement to catch someone with a small cell phone in his hand than it is for police to catch people speeding or breaking other traffic laws.  A car that weighs 3,000 pounds or more is very visible when it is going too fast or when it runs a red light. A driver holding a cell phone that weighs a couple of ounces is harder for police to see.

Are the Laws Effective?

While drivers may not be getting a lot of tickets, there is still hope that the laws are effective in preventing texting and curbing the number of distracted driving accidents. Part of the goal of the laws is to change people’s behavior, and when texting is illegal, hopefully more people will decide not to do it. The threat of a ticket may be enough to reduce texting even if no ticket is actually issued.

The texting and driving bans can also make it easier for car accident victims to prove negligence if they are involved in car accidents with texting drivers. This is helpful for victims who are trying to recover monetary compensation after a car accident that causes injury.

If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident in the Portland area, contact  Zbinden & Curtis. Call (503) 287-5000.

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