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Cell phone use, child safety seat laws change

Transportation-related laws go into effect in Oregon starting New Year's Day

Drivers accustomed to sneaking a phone call in here and there - hoping they might get away with it - will have few if any excuses left after Jan. 1, 2012.

That's when a law modifying Oregon's ban on cell phone use goes into effect, along with a few other transportation-related laws aimed at increasing safety on roads. Here's an overview:

House Bill 3186, cell phone use and texting while driving - For most drivers, it's already against the law to use a hand-held cell phone while driving in Oregon. The original law, however, allowed cell phone use 'in the scope of the person's employment if operation of the motor vehicle is necessary for the person's job.' That exemption is removed as of Jan. 1, so that the only drivers allowed to use a hand-held mobile communications device are those over 18 who are 1) operating a roadside assistance or tow vehicle; or 2) operating a utility vehicle for the purpose of servicing a utility.

In addition, the bill outlaws texting for all drivers. In essence, as of Jan. 1, it will be illegal for nearly everyone to use a cell phone and/or text while driving, unless it is a hands-free device (no exemptions for drivers under age 18). The violation is a Class D offense, with a new base rate, effective Jan. 1, 2012, of $110.

HB 3590, Child safety seat update - This simple update lets child passengers weighing more than 40 pounds ride in any approved child safety system designed for a child weighing more than 40 pounds. Previously, Oregon law required a child passenger weighing more than 40 pounds to be secured in a booster seat using a lap or shoulder belt until age eight or 4 foot, 9 inches tall. That's still legal; however, if you own a five-point child passenger safety seat system designed to accommodate children weighing over 40 pounds, it will be legal to use that as an alternative to a booster effective Jan. 1, 2012.