File photo

File photo

Of the Keizertimes

With the new year come some new laws impacting drivers.

Officers with the Keizer Police Department are waiting to see what impact the changes will have.

Senate Bill 9 moves the cell phone offense from a Class D to a Class C traffic violation, with the minimum fine increasing from $250 to $500. The original law went into effect in January 2010. Two years later, the law became a primary offense, meaning officers can pull over a driver simply for using a mobile device while driving without a hands-free device.

Trevor Wenning, Traffic Safety sergeant with the KPD, noted there were far fewer instances with cell phones in Keizer in 2013.

“Out of the 4,563 written citations and warnings the Keizer Police issued over the past year, 267 were for unlawful operation of a mobile communication device,” Wenning said. “These numbers are down from 2012 (553) and 2011 (480). I believe this downward trend is due to several factors: the Keizer Police Department is focusing more on education than enforcement, drivers are becoming more mindful of the law – they stay off the phone, drivers are getting better at hiding their use and others have simply invested in hands-free devices.”

Senate Bill 444 creates a new offense of smoking in a vehicle while a person under 18 years of age is in the vehicle. This offense is a Class D traffic violation for the first offense and a Class C traffic violation for second and subsequent offenses. The fine is up to $250 for the first offense, up to $500 for a second offense and fines increase with each subsequent citation.

According to the Oregon Health Authority, children in an estimated 50,000 Oregon families are currently exposed to secondhand smoke in vehicles.

The bill states that “smokes” means to inhale, exhale, burn or carry a lighted cigarette, cigar, pipe, weed, plant, regulated narcotic or other combustible substance. The bill specifies that officers may enforce this offense only as a secondary action when a driver has been detained for some other offense.

“Smoking in a car has not been tracked and I suspect the number of citations and warnings written in the future will be low since this new law is a secondary offense,” Wenning said. “That means officers will have to have some other probable cause to pull a driver over before they would be able to investigate, educate or enforce the violation. Four other states have similar laws regarding smoking in a car with juveniles.”

House Bill 2406 amends the state law regarding the obstruction of vehicle windows, applying to anything that prevents or impairs the ability to see out of the vehicle. The new house bill states the law no longer applies to a vehicle’s rear window.

“Obstructed windows have not been an issue because the law prohibited vehicle owners or drivers from applying material that impairs the ability to see into the vehicle,” Wenning said. “This new law benefits those who wish to decorate their vehicles with company advertising, logos or whatever suits their fancy. From my perspective as a traffic stops instructor, the relaxation of the rules has created another risk to the officer. Officers now face the challenge of potentially not being able to see into a vehicle upon initial approach.”