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Since You Asked: Hand-held cellphones outlawed for drivers

I heard that the Legislature has made it illegal to talk on your cellphone even if it is an important part of your job.

I am a long-haul truck driver and have to use my cellphone constantly to communicate with my employer. Up until now, it was legal for me to use a cellphone while driving my tow truck. Is that about to change?

— Mike R., Central Point

It's time you invested in a hands-free cellphone, Mike.

In the the waning days of the past legislative session, lawmakers in Salem passed House Bill 3186, which completely bans texting while driving and closes the loophole used by long-haul and other drivers who previously could use their cellphones while driving.

According to the Oregon Department of Transportation newsletter, police and judges said the employment exemption was being abused by large numbers of drivers who argued that they were using their cellphones for work when pulled over by law enforcement.

The fine for driving while talking on a hand-held cellphone is $142. Drivers 18 and younger cannot talk on a cellphone regardless of whether or not it's hands-free.

HB 3186 does not apply to tow truck drivers or any roadside assistance workers, people using hand-held cellphones to summon police to an emergency, police, firefighters, ambulance personnel or anyone using a cellphone while operating equipment used for agriculture, ODOT says.

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@mailtribune.com. We're sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering them all.