Young drivers upset about new cell phone law

A new state law bans minor drivers from using cell phones or text messaging devices while driving.

House Bill 2872, which takes effect Jan. 1, prohibits drivers under the age of 18 from using any type of mobile communication device, including hands-free devices. The only exceptions are calling for emergency assistance or engaging in farming activities.

"I think that's horrible," said 15-year-old Kay-la Reddings. "I use my cell phone all the time when I'm driving. I can't not answer the phone when my friends call."

Fifteen-year-old Jordon Miller agrees. "You have to answer the phone; but I definitely think you shouldn't be text messaging when you're driving."

State Representative Greg Macpherson (D-Lake Oswego) introduced the legislation on behalf of the House Transportation committee.

He said minors are probably better at multitasking than someone in their 50s. "But the lack of experience they have on the roadway, those are things you absorb over many years of being a driver."

Brey Sugar, 17, who lives in Colorado but will be returning to Ashland in February, said the law is a good idea; but it should be for everyone, not just kids under 18.

Sugar says she has very strong beliefs regarding different laws for different ages. "A 17-year-old can't use a cell phone, but an 18-year-old can? What's the difference? You can drive when you're 16, but can't drink alcohol before you're 21. You can join the army before you're allowed to drink. It's so random and just silly."

California, Illinois, Nebraska, New Jersey and Washington also enacted similar laws for 2008. Some states, including Oregon, say this will not be a primary offense, meaning that drivers will not be pulled over and fined because they are using a cell phone.

Rather, if they are pulled over for speeding, reckless driving or running a red light, and an officer sees the minor using a communication device, they could receive a $97 fine for the Class D traffic violation.

The new law states that a "mobile communication device" means a text messaging device or a wireless, two-way communication device designed to receive and transmit voice or text communication.

Not all legislators were in favor of the bill passing. Representative Greg Smith (R-Heppner), said cell phones are being unfairly targeted.

"It's easy for this body to identify cell phones as the issue that causes the greatest amount of recklessness in driving," he said, noting that eating and reading the newspaper while driving also result in vehicle tragedies.

Staff writer can be reached at 482-3456 x226 or .

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