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'Today's drunk driving': Ore. law would ban all mobile device use in the car

Mathew Bohman, motorcycle officer for the Springfield Police Department. (SBG, AF)

SPRINGFIELD, Ore. –Mathew Bohman is a motorcycle officer for the Springfield Police Department.

He's been spotting distracted drivers using their cell phones for years.

"I tell people just park on the side of the road and just watch cars drive by. It's amazing how much time people spend looking in their laps,” said Bohman.

He said distracted driving is a huge problem.

"I know what they're doing. Can I prove it? Because I can't see their phone in their hand down in their lap? That becomes part of the problem with the law,” said Bohman.

The Oregon Senate is taking action to address the dangers of distracted driving, or, "today's drunk driving" as they called it.

On Thursday the Senate passed a bill with a 21-8 vote that would broaden the definition of distracted driving.

It proposes that someone could be given a citation if they are found using their phone in any way behind the wheel, like selecting music or using the GPS.

This would expand on the current distracted driving laws.

Right now, drivers are simply not allowed to talk or text while driving. House Bill 2597 proposes that there not be any phone use.

The current law prevents drivers from talking and texting, but other uses are allowed - for now.

Law would ban all uses of phone, not just talking and texting. If passed, the new law would ban all phone use in the car.

This potential new law would address the gray area of distracted driving: Checking your phone for the time, the GPS, and even playing music.

Springfield resident Tandi Perkins watches cars for a living as a parking service attendant for Diamond Parking.

She sees distracted drivers every day. She said some almost hit pedestrians.

“You see them on the phone and it's really disheartening to me. Because people are like 'hey I’m here, I’m walking here, I have the right away,' and it's like um yea, pay attention,” said Perkins.

One Pleasant Hill resident sees the pros and cons of the new bill.

"As a mom, with driving kids, I think it's a great idea because it means my kids are safer on the road. However, as a business owner and someone who owns a company and is working for a living, I use my GPS all the time,” said Dawn Keeney of Pleasant Hill.

For now, traffic officers will continue to enforce the rules currently in place.

The new law would also increase the penalty for a distracted driving offense. It will go to governor Kate Brown for her signature if approved by the House.

House Bill 2597 just refers to cell phone distracted driving.

But Springfield police said on an everyday basis, distracted driving can be anything that takes your attention off the road, things like eating, drinking, putting on makeup, and playing with your pet.

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