Editorial -- Hang up and drive: One-day cellphone ‘blitz’ serves a broader purpose

Though it’s no game, call it “Cops and Talkers” in Hood River on June 19.

As a community, we have been warned: On that day, the Hood River Police Department will be heavily enforcing the law against drivers using cellphones while operating a motor vehicle.

We’ve all seen it: drivers with their phones at their ears.

As of Jan. 1, 2010, the Oregon Revised Statute 811.507 was amended to ban the use of mobile handheld communication devices while operating a motor vehicle. The statute reads that “A person commits the offense of operating a motor vehicle while using a mobile communication device if the person, while operating a motor vehicle on a highway, uses a mobile communication device.”

It’s also against the law in Washington.

A mobile communication device is a text-messaging device or a wireless two-way communication device designed to receive and transmit voice or text communication.

Driving while using a cellphone is a primary offense — this means a police officer may stop a driver solely for using a cellphone without using a hands-free accessory. This violation carries a maximum $110 fine.

This also applies to texting, of course.

Studies have shown one in 20 traffic accidents in the United States involve a driver talking on a cellphone or texting. It is calculated around 2,600 people die each year as a result of cellphone use while operating a motor vehicle. Another 330,000 are believed to be injured in accidents.

In the spirit of the law, devices should be pocketed or put out of sight whenever the motor is running. Attention diverted during stoplight-texting sessions is a recipe for rear-enders.

If you must take a call, pull to the side of the road if you do not have a hands-free device.

Does the cultural permeation of mobile devices give a sense of futility to the fight against the illegal use in motor vehicles? Perhaps, but nonetheless the campaign on June 19 is a valid service that reminds us of the problem. If it means one fewer driver makes a habit of phoning while driving, it is worth it.

Remember: June 19 and every day, hang up and drive.

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