OSP urges drivers to “move over,” avoid distractions while traveling

textingAs Oregon law enforcement officers continue to take steps, both educationally and through enforcement, to increase awareness and save lives during national “Distracted Driving Awareness” month, Oregon State Police (OSP) and Jackson County Sheriff’s Office (JCSO) will conduct a joint enforcement operation aimed at keeping drivers aware while looking out for the safety of emergency responders and roadside assistance workers.

On Thursday, April 24, 2014, OSP and JCSO will be conducting a joint targeted enforcement effort on Interstate 5 between milepost 27 and 40. While being on the lookout for distracted driver-related violations, troopers and deputies will also emphasize the importance for drivers to comply with Oregon’s “Move Over” law. Originally passed in 2003, the “Move Over” law is designed to increase safety for travelers and those working along our roads by maintaining a safe distance for emergency responders.

The “Move Over” law (ORS 811.147) states that if you are driving up behind or next to any type of emergency vehicle (police car, ambulance or public safety vehicle), a roadside assistance vehicle or a tow vehicle working on the side of the road with emergency lights flashing, you must:

  • Move over to a non-adjacent lane on a highway having two or more lanes for traffic in a single direction; or,
  • Slow down to a speed that is at least five miles per hour under the post speed limit if making a lane change is unsafe or impossible (two directional, two-lane highway).

Oregon law enforcement officers and other emergency service providers have “close calls” helping the public while working alongside our roads. Because most of the incidents happen as law enforcement officers are already engaged in an enforcement contact or on scene of an incident such as a traffic crash or motorist assist, the violator is often not contacted. Even though the Move Over law has been in effect in Oregon for over 10 years, many people stopped for the violation often say they were not aware of the law or didn’t see the officer stopped on the shoulder with emergency lights activated.

Distraction is anything that diverts the driver’s attention from the primary tasks of navigating the vehicle and responding to critical events or the need to take appropriate driving-related actions. Distracted driving-related behavior may be factors in crashes involving following too close, fail to obey traffic control devices, fail to maintain lane of travel, and roadway departures.

The most obvious violation associated with distracted driving handled through enforcement of Oregon’s cell phone law (Unlawful Use of a Mobile Communication Device). Effective January 1, 2014, Senate Bill 9 change the minimum fine for violation of Oregon’s cell phone law to $142, and the fine for this offense can be as high as $500. The fines increase is aimed at reducing the number of crashes that involve a driver talking on a handheld phone or texting.

According to ODOT, from 2008 – 2012 in Oregon, 13 people were killed in crashes involving drivers using a handheld mobile communication device to talk or text. During that same five year period in Oregon, 65 people died in crashes involving any kind of distracted driver.

So far this year, 39 law enforcement officers nationwide have been killed in the line of duty. Over half (16) died in traffic-related incidents including traffic crashes and being struck while outside of a police vehicle working on a near a highway.

OSP and JCSO remind drivers of all ages that a lot can happen during a period of distracted driving, no matter how brief it may be.

Now is a good time for all users of the transportation system to put away the distractions and focus on getting where you want to go safely.

A partnership between OSP and Oregon Department of Transportation has helped create media opportunities for public outreach.  http://www.oregon.gov/ODOT/TS/Traffic_Enforcement.shtml#Move_Over_or_Slow_Down_Law.

Failure to comply with the Move Over law can result in a fine up to $260.