Young drivers in Oregon and all drivers in Washington are subject to new laws relating to using mobile communications devices while driving.
In Oregon, it's illegal for drivers under age 18 to talk or text while driving. In Washington, a new law forbids all drivers, regardless of age, from texting or holding a wireless device such as a cell phone while driving.
The two state laws differentiate the word "use" however. In Washington, it's OK for drivers to use a cell phone if they communicate using a hands-free device such as a headset or Bluetooth.
Sue Riehl, a safety program manager for the Oregon Department of Transportation, says statistics nationwide show drivers 16-20 years old are involved in fatal and injury-related crashes at more than twice the rate of the population as a whole.
Distractions, such as those prompted by cellular phones and other mobile communications devices, are among the primary contributing causes of those crashes.
Both states were wise to pass these laws.
Anyone who has tried to pass a slow, lazily swerving driver on the highway can affirm that texting while driving, or talking on the phone while driving, is just begging for trouble. It's like blow-drying your hair while taking a bath.
In fact, the best thing Oregon could do is follow Washington's example and ban mobile communications device use for all drivers.