Sometimes a law is so bad, so egregiously ineffective, that you have to wonder why the Oregon Legislature even bothered passing it — or why any lawmaker would want his or her name attached to it.
Case in point: a state law that went into effect last year that allows police to cite a teenager for talking on a cell phone while driving but that — here’s the kicker — allows police to do so only if it is a “secondary violation.”
That means another violation, such as speeding or going the wrong way on a one-way street, must come first.
Not surprisingly, the “secondary violation” provision has impeded enforcement. Or, to put it another way, it has made the law about as useless as a cell phone with a dead battery...
Enforcement of cell phone bans is problematic, even in the half dozen states that have outright prohibitions on drivers of any age using the devices.
Factor in the additional challenges of determining if motorists are teenagers and the requirement of citing teens first on primary violations, and you have an unworkable law that should either be strengthened or removed from the books.
The former seems the right choice. The law was written by Rep. Greg Macpherson, a Lake Oswego Democrat who served as chairman of the House Judiciary Committee until his term recently expired. Macpherson says his goal was to reduce the number of traffic accidents involving teenagers — the leading cause of death for teens across the nation. “We shouldn’t have our young people, who are just learning to drive, try to do that while talking on a cell phone,” he says.
That makes sense, and the best way of achieving Macpherson’s worthy goal is to make cell phone use a primary violation for teen drivers. That would make enforcement easier — but it would still remain a significant challenge. An Insurance Institute for Highway Safety study in North Carolina showed that teen drivers actually used their cell phones more often after that state made it a primary violation — a finding that will come as absolutely no surprise to any parent of teenagers.
But a ban on teen cell phone use can be enforced despite challenges, just as laws on seat belt use, child safety seats and teenage driving laws have been enforced in the past.