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Thursday, January 14, 2010

You can't even text while stopped for a red light

At least, the Portland police are now ticketing for that. Seems a bit overzealous. If the car's not rolling, what's the harm? Can you look at the face of your cell phone at all?

Comments (42)

The rule says you cannot use the phone "while operating a motor vehicle on a highway". Stopping for a red light is still operating.

If you need to text, pull over and stop driving.

I guess that's one question: If you're stopped at a red light, are your driving at that point?

Another question is, even if you are, is this what the police should be targeting in their enforcement efforts?

If you are drunk and passed out in your car, with the engine off but the keys in the ignition, you can be popped for DUI.

If you think you're so important you have to use your phone at red lights, you need to be brought down a notch or two. Or hire a driver.

The law allows you to "use your phone" any time, even when barreling down the highway at 65 miles an hour, as long as you aren't holding it in your hand. The question is whether you should be allowed to pick it up at a red light. As I say, it seems pretty harmless to me. You obviously have a different outlook on that question.

Jack, I understand your question, and it's more than fair. I think the zero tolerance policy is to keep entitlement brats from whining that they were in some special condition that justified their texting further down the road. If these little darlings limited their texting to stoplights, then this law wouldn't have been necessary, and this wouldn't be a concern. Unfortunately, far too many people are nowhere as considerate of their fellow drivers and pedestrians as you.

(Several years back, I worked for the call center for a company that processed electronic payments for utility companies, and our policy, for liability reasons, was that we couldn't enter the customer's information for them. This meant that I usually spent all morning on the line with maroons who'd cry "Cain't I jest make muh paymunt wit YEW?" over and over because they didn't want to enter the information themselves. Without fail, this was because they'd already tried five or six times to enter electric bill and credit card information into their cell phones while driving, and they'd get absolutely furious if I dared suggest that they pull over to the side so they could get it right. Apparently it's a God-given American right to pay your bills while driving to work, and I dreaded the day I'd get a call that ended in a scream, a crash, and someone saying "Tell the ambulance to take its time.")

There must not be ANY crime left in Portland and Oregon as a whole if cops are spending even a second of time enforcing this idiotic law.

Just another reason to vote out Big Pipe since he was the one who ordered PPB to enforce this. The same PPB that can't respond to car break-ins and even some home break-ins...but they have time to write these tickets.

Funny. Just today I was at a stoplight in Lake Oswego. While I was waiting for the light to change, my phone rang and I picked it up to turn it off. I didn't notice the officer in the next lane (one car back), and he flagged me over and gave me a warning.

My feeling is that we can argue the red light thing all we want, but at least they're enforcing it. After being side-swiped by a texting teenager, I think this is a good law.

Hey WG...Traffic patrol and the people who answer break-in calls are different officers.

Yeah...It's idiotic because it didn't ban hands-free electronic communications, nor video screens in the dashboard. The idiots at the legislature crumpled before the economic power of the telecommunications industry...They'll all be expecting big campaign donations from the thankful hands-free dealers (who'd already reached saturation with the hand-held units and were looking for a new marketing initiative).

Talk about idiots...the people who use these things while operating a motor vehicle are pinheads. It is dangerous; there is more than sufficient scientific evidence. If you want to be an erratic, reckless driver, do it without alcohol and without electronic communications.

Shut up and drive!


I don't mean any offense, I know you are a proud Democrat on national levels. I was once one too. It seems though that all the Democrats in the legislature (the brain trust of Oregon!) have been chipping away at one personal freedom after the other over the years. The cell phone ban is just one recent example. Don't solve any problems, find an easy scapegoat and ban it, and it'll look like you're doing something.

If someone is on the phone, they are involved in a conversation and their mind is processing other things than driving. Many people cannot walk and chew gum at the same time (average IQ is somewhere around 110, scary I know) and therefor they have mishaps in driving. It doesn't matter whether or not they are using a "hands free" device. If having a hand away from the wheel made such a difference, I wonder what the ADA proponents would think about a ban on driving for those who've had one arm amputated. Wouldn't that effectively be the same thing, as long as we are allowing hands free devices? What about eating, or putting on makeup? We don't need any such bans, we just need to hold people accountable for their actions.

"Sideswiped by a texting teenager."


A teenager who believes they are immortal and capable of operating in multiple modes simultaneously without degradation of their performance.

Both repeated proven to be delusions of the highest order. Common; but still delusions.

Sideswipes, t-bones, hit bicyclists, hit pedestrians...All are typical results of impeded peripheral attention, which is the classic result of having one's attention focused upon an electronic conversation.

"average IQ is somewhere around 110" - now THAT'S a classic. dude, please research the standardization of the IQ test a bit more before you go embarrassing yourself in public like that again.

"what's the harm?"

They're not generating revenue fast enough, that's the harm in not ticketing.

"to keep entitlement brats"

I think they will ticket everyone, not just "entitlement brats" (whatever those are.)


I was giving our supposedly educated populace of OR the benefit of the doubt. I realize that IQ is based on the bell curve, and 100 is the average in world population. I just pulled 110 out of my A**

Westside Guy is right ... way too many police resources are currently allocated to this kind of crap, or things like not having your seat belt on the right way.

But there's money to be made in writing tickets and it's easy to do. So buckle up and get used to it. Or work for a change in City Code so police officers and detectives get 15 percent of any stolen goods recovered.

This new law is a step forward. I'm glad to hear it is being enforced. From my limited perspective, it doesn't seem to have had a noticeable effect on drivers' conduct yet. Meanwhile, our local governments can use the money generated by the fines.

My niece is still alive today and I'm really glad texting while driving is against the law.

She appears in all her immortality at 45 secs into the link.

As someone who has been rearended twice by someone on a phone, including someone stopped at a red light, I say its about time.

Can you believe this, he said he was so busy talking that he forgot to keep his foot on the brake.

Stopping at a red light is no time to take your eyes (or mind) off the road. Besides the obvious need to watch for the green light, you should also take the time to analyze the traffic around you. Is there someone on the other side of the intersection intending to make a left turn? If you intend to make a turn, is anyone potentially in your way? Any pedestrians waiting at the crosswalk? Is there someone in the "right turn only" lane to your immediate right who looks like he/she might drive straight ahead into your lane instead of making the required turn? (I mention this last one because it happened to me just the other day and I was fortunately alert enough to anticipate it.) Texting is just not compatible with driving, whether you're actually moving or not. I'm truly amazed there is any disagreement on this at all.

FYI - I believe the police are acting on the phrase "operating" a motor vehicle. Location is irrelevant. One LE type interviewed on the radio indicated that anytime your engine is running (i.e., the car is operating), you are liable to be ticketed. Even if you're sitting still.

The law already needs some cleaning up regarding the "business use" exception to the hands-free requirement, as well as the total ban on cell phones for drivers under 18 - both are awkward to deal with from an enforcement perspective, i.e. an officer cannot easily discern business use or age by just looking at the driver.

We therefore don't need any more complexity interpreting this law. Let's keep it simple - if you're in a travel lane on a public street behind the wheel, then you are driving; if you are pulled over out of a travel lane with the transmission in "P" or the handbrake / footbrake set, then you are not driving.

I'm all for the law in principle, but bridle at the idea of it being enforced as strictly as that. The cops who are enforcing it spend every spare second looking intently at the info-screen mounted on their dash--have for years. I'm sure the hypocrisy bothers them.

Fortunately, I think I found a loophole, because I didn't notice any mention in the law against sexting and driving.

I drive regularly to both school downtown and work which is close to the airport. Since this new law has taken effect, the only "change" I have noticed is more people being sneaky with their phones, such as holding it up with their shoulder (which is hands free, by the way) or texting in their lap instead of holding it up street level. This, in my opinion, is much more unsafe.

About the police pulling folks over for having "something" in their hand.. how can they tell if someone is using the phone for illegal purposes (like texting) or legal purposes (like GPS, time keeping, or any other 1000's of functions that phones have)? The law does not prohibit someone having a phone in their hand like some folks believe, they have to be actually talking or texting.

How about scrolling through e-mail? My favorite at red lights (until now, at least)...

I think a couple of quotes are in order right about now:

The United States is a nation of laws: badly written and randomly enforced.
Frank Zappa (1940 - 1993)

When men are pure, laws are useless; when men are corrupt, laws are broken.
Benjamin Disraeli (1804 - 1881)

The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one's time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.
H. L. Mencken (1880 - 1956)

The more laws and order are made prominent,
The more thieves and robbers there will be.
Lao-tzu (604 BC - 531 BC), The Way of Lao-tzu

I agree with Jack, the more laws the less freedom, period!


It is still legal to operate a video camera and drive, which I talk into as I am driving down the road.

Can't wait to get mistaken for a cell phone!

And the camera will be rolling when it happens!

If I pull off the road, and I leave the car running, can I still be ticketed?

Actually, I own a hybrid. The car's engine is not running when I stop at lights. Am I "operating" the vehicle? What if I put it in park at the light?

A couple of weeks ago, I was riding my bike down 34th Ave. and came to a four-way stop where I needed to make a left turn. There was a car at the stop across the street. I stopped, waited for the driver to go, and waited and waited. Finally I made my turn and at that moment, the car bolted forward and nearly hit me. I realized afterward that the driver had been looking down at his lap and probably texting. So, yeah, multitasking with a cell phone can be dangerous even when stopped.

I work in construction out of a van. I listen to music in my van thru my iPhone plugged into my vans radio. If I'm changing the album or adjusting the volume with my iPhone, how is that different from changing it around directly on the console? Will I get ticketed? Just askin.....

No, officer. I spilled mascara (mayonnaise) on my cell phone, and I was just wiping it off.

I have a simple solution. For music in the car just have an iPod Touch. It is NOT a phone. You can still email, text (with a 3G wifi modem), and change music. If you get stopped, you are NOT using a cell phone and you can't be ticketed.

Jack mentioned the laws allow you to "use your phone" at any time with a couple of exceptions, texting at red lights being one.

Why ambiguity in the law? Don't answer that, it is a rhetorical question of which I know all the answers.

It would seem easier if legislators crafted the law to state "this law prohibits the use on any hand held electronic device, while driving or operating a motor vehicle, automobile or otherwise, for any use whatsoever."

I put in "otherwise" to give police officers the discretion to ticket bicyclists for cell phone use.

Honestly, I do not believe there should be laws on cell phone use in cars. If stupid people want to do stupid things, then the gene pool is better off without their stupid genes. We would cut down on health care and entitlement costs drastically if we stopped enacting laws to protect idiots from their own asinine behavior.

I can see the slogan now, "Save the Future! Text and drive so that your grandchildren will not have to be paying for your Medicare!"

Simple problems have simple solutions:

iPhone + free Dragon Dictation app + cheap plastic iPhone car mount = texting while driving without touching the phone.

RyanLeo, a bicycle is not a "motor vehicle".

Maybe not Allan, but cyclists should be subject to the law too. Its still stupid and dangerous to use a phone while riding a bike. Even if just for self-preservation. I was nearly hit by a cyclist downtown last summer who was on his phone.

iphone plus dragon etc sounds like the way to go...

the bluetooth (on loan, so i didn't buy it, thankfully) is actually no fun, what with no calling and receiving calls unless one pulls over, which is not really practical. Having eight eyes in one's head looking for telltale sirenmakers on cop cars really makes for an unpleasant time.

We have been putting off the iphone waiting for the technology to "perfect itself".

Is the iphone perfect yet? Does the free dragon stuff work with a regular cell phone?

Honestly, I do not believe there should be laws on cell phone use in cars. If stupid people want to do stupid things, then the gene pool is better off without their stupid genes.

Remember that when some moron texting while he's driving runs into the side of your car.

Seriously, do you really think really think most traffic laws are on the books to prevent people from hurting themselves? Or that people are forced to carry car insurance because they might need it to fix their own cars?

As for Jack's question about texting while stopped at a red light, you're supposed to be paying attention to the light, not getting out your phone (because you're not talking into it while you're driving, right?) getting into the message mode, reading whatever you might have to respond to, typing your response, and pressing send all in the portion of the couple of minutes you're at the light.

Some people might think that texting at the stops might explain the growing number of times in recent years they've inexplicably been held up in left turn lanes because the lead driver somehow missed the light changing. Then again, maybe they were surfing the web. Or reading a book.

"Sideswiped by a texting teenager."

Remeber the days before cell phones whne there were no accidents?

Since there seem to be a lot of people who don't like teenagers driving why not work on raising the driving age? Some of us are very efficient and do use the phone wisely in the car.

Does the free dragon stuff work with a regular cell phone?

It is an application that runs on the iPhone. You download it for free from the App Store.

You activate it by tapping a "button" on the screen, you say what you're going to say, it shows it on the screen, you then click "text message" where it will launch the MMS app, you paste it in and tap send.

Still has some tapping to do, but far less, and takes much less attention than clicking away a full message on the virtual keyboard. However, it's free, and the mic works without you holding the phone to your face.

Jon, it's funny that you bring up bicyclists on cell phones. I've seen this twice, and both times, the idiots were so busy talking that they ran into the same telephone pole on two separate days.

With the exception of places like the Sandy Blvd./Burnside intersection, there's not really enough time at a stop light to be playing around with a handheld electronic device.

Most folks would find themselves in the middle of texting, halfway through a phone call or only partially through a list of stuff they wanted to check out before the light changed. And if they're distracted with their toy, they might not even notice that.

I, too, believe that the public will push the envelope and cheat like hail when they think they can't be seen. Not that it will make that big a dent in the growing attention deficit disorder mania sweeping the US automotive industry which seems bent on manufacturing traveling entertainment centers whose secondary purpose is to get you somewhere. And there are no laws to rein in that growing list of distracting bells and whistles AT ALL.


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