Distracted driving violations enforced

Everywhere I go, I pass anywhere from one to 20 people a day talking and/or texting on their cellphones while driving. Is this violation being taken seriously by law enforcement in Oregon or are we waiting for more accidents and deaths?

Are citations being given out to the violators of this important law? If so, do you know how many are cited a day in the Eagle Point or Medford area?

— Michele T., Eagle Point

Michele, you are not alone in your frustration. Since the cellphone law (ORS 811.507) went into effect in January 2010, the Since You Asked inbox has been flooded with emails very similar to yours, and still these babblers continue to blatantly break the law. But that doesn't mean police are slacking on the job.

Since the law was modified in January 2012 (there's no longer a loophole that allowed a work-related call), Medford police have written 304 citations for operating a motor vehicle while using a mobile communication device. Eagle Point police have written nearly 40 for the same violation. The amnesty period is long over.

Other traffic violations — running red lights, failing to yield to pedestrians, not wearing a seat belt — happen regularly as well.

"If police did nothing but handle traffic violations, who would handle misdemeanors, felonies and crimes in progress?" said Medford police Detective Sgt. Brent Mak.

Mak said sometimes police must ignore a traffic violation when they are responding to a higher-priority call.

"I've seen people run red lights right in front of me, but I'm on my way to a domestic in progress," Mak said.

"Everything falls into priority basis. Talking on the phone is a violation. If drivers are caught, they will be cited for that violation."

It's also important to note that while you as a citizen driver may witness as many as 20 violators a day, police may see a lot less — considering the average person drops the phone when a police car comes into view.


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