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It's the driver's job to know about new traffic laws

If a person doesn't watch the news or read the newspaper, how does the Department of Motor Vehicles ensure the public is aware of new driving rules? I read about a sting in Medford where a police officer was staged to look like he was pulling a car over. Up ahead, there was another police officer waiting to pull over drivers that didn't move into the far lane or slow down. I did not know about this rule until I read about it in the Mail Tribune. Why don't we get these changes in the mail? Nobody goes to the DMV except to renew their license every five years.

— Dee S., Medford

Dee, this is yet another reason to subscribe to your local newspaper.

Generally, the Medford Police Department or Driver and Motor Vehicle Services will pass on information about new traffic laws to local media outlets for publication.

However, the Legislature does not require the Police Department, DMV, Oregon Department of Transportation or the media to make sure you are personally aware of any traffic changes. It is up to you, the driver, to habitually review the rules of the road.

"The onus is on the drivers to find out the information themselves," said Medford police Lt. Bob Hansen.

Every two years, the DMV releases an updated driver's manual. The 2010-2011 version is available at the DMV, the Medford Police Department and online at www.oregondmv.com. The 2012-2013 manual will be available by summer at the latest.

While the driver's manual is probably your best resource, the DMV also makes a point to post major changes under "News, Facts & Statistics" on its website or its home page, or you can opt to wade through pages of legislative sessions.

In regard to your specific example, the rule about passing emergency vehicles was first implemented in 2009 and appears in the current manual. Sometimes, police will offer a grace period after a new law is established to give drivers time educate themselves. But you shouldn't rely on this.

Mailing out a postcard every time a law is tweaked also is not feasible.

"You're talking several hundred thousand drivers in the state of Oregon," Hansen said. "Think of the money. That would be a tremendous cost."

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. 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.