A bill that would enable law enforcement in Oregon to pull over the state’s youngest drivers for using cell phones is in a conference committee.
The Senate version would allow police to ticket drivers under 18 solely for using any cell phone, pager or Blackberry device while at the wheel. It differs from the House-approved version that required officers to pull over teens for another traffic offense, such as speeding or running a red light, before ticketing them for chatting on the phone.
House lawmakers refused to agree to Senate amendments to the bill – HB2872. As a result, the bill has been sent to a conference committee made up of select members from both chambers to work out differences.
Opponents object to the change allowing primary enforcement. They say it could lead to racial profiling.
Rep. Greg Macpherson, D-Lake Oswego, the bill’s author, said the intent of the legislation is to make sure new drivers stay of their cell phones. He doesn’t want penalties to be a burden, The Associated Press reported.
As a result, another modification to the bill would reduce the potential fine from as much as $360 to a maximum of $90.
At least a dozen states already ban or restrict young drivers from using cell phones. Currently, Connecticut, New Jersey and New York have the only statewide laws restricting hand-held cell phone use for all drivers. In 2008, California and Washington are slated to implement their own rule. No state prohibits hands-free usage for all drivers.
In Oregon, legislators have until the end of June to reach agreement on prohibiting cell phone use for young drivers or the bill will die.
– By Keith Goble, State Legislative Editor