Teen drivers may be banned from using cell phones


A state Senate panel passed a bill that would allow police to stop teenagers from using cell phones while driving &

even if they are obeying all other traffic laws.

The legislation differs from a House-passed version of the bill. In that version, drivers younger than 18 could only get in trouble for cell phone use if it's a secondary offense, meaning the police officer has to first stop them for another traffic violation, such as speeding or running a red light.

But the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday adopted an amendment pushed by the bill's author, Rep. Greg Macpherson, D-Lake Oswego. The amendment, however, also reduces the potential fine from a maximum of $360 to a maximum of $90.

Macpherson said he wants to make sure new drivers stay off their cell phones, but he doesn't want the penalty to be too much of a burden.

"These are kids who are learning to drive," he said. "And they are heavy users of this technology. So it's improving the safety of our roadways."

Lobbyists for the Oregon Criminal Defense Lawyers Association and the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon objected to the change.

"I'm concerned that it will be a good excuse for profiling or pretext stops," said Amy Elkanich of the lawyers association. She explained that police could pull over a vehicle driven by a young person on the pretext that he or she may have been using a cell phone, and then use it as an excuse to check into other things law enforcement wouldn't otherwise be able to, such as whether any of the passengers are gang members.

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