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Those caught texting, browsing social media or otherwise holding and using their cell phones in Oregon face the harshest distracted driving laws in the nation, according to a recent study.
Rosenblum Law, the firm behind traffictickets.com, analyzed laws from all 50 states and ranked Oregon at the top.
Due to the expensive fine — up to $1,000 for a first-time offense — Oregon earned the number one slot.
"Oregon has taken the strongest stance on punishing individuals for texting while driving," said Adam Rosenblum, principal attorney with the New Jersey-based law firm. "This harsh penalty is intended to deter people from using their phones while driving and could ultimately lead to fewer accidents that are caused by distracted driving."
Q&A with police: What you need to know about Oregon's distracted driving law
During the 2017 Oregon legislative session, lawmakers voted to bolster the state's distracted driving laws by closing a gaping loophole and increasing fines.
First-time offenses not resulting in a crash can lead to fines of up to $1,000. Second-time offenses or offenses that contributed to a crash result in an up to $2,000 fine.
Those who nab a third distracting driving citation in a 10-year period can be fined up to $2,500 and sentenced to 6 months in jail for the misdemeanor offense.
But courts may offer to suspend the fine for first-time offenders if they complete and pay for a distracted driving avoidance course, according to the Oregon Department of Transportation.
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And those caught texting or using their phones don't always face the stiffest penalty.
The presumptive fines for each offense — $260 for a first-timer and $435 for a second-time offense — can be much lower than the maximums.
The analysis also took into account how easily a distracted driving offense can lead to a suspended license.
Illinois drivers were found most likely to get their license suspended for texting while driving.
Utah, Wisconsin and Alaska, with fines ranging from $750 to $400, also made the top five rankings of strictest states.
Montana, the only state with no laws restricting the use of cell phones while driving, earned the title of "most lenient" state.
Due to its low fine of $20, California also ranked near the bottom.
The analysis only took into account state laws — but not city-specific laws — banning cell phone use while driving.
Oregon distracted driving law: One year in, citations have spiked
Rosenblum said due to the high number of texting-related crashes, nearly all states have passed laws.
As an authority on the subject of traffic tickets, their firm decided to compare nationwide how states are working to stop distracted driving. If Oregon's strict laws show a positive impact, it could lead other states to follow suit.
"The National Safety Council reports that cell phone use while driving leads to 1.6 million crashes each year," Rosenblum said. "If Oregon is able to lower the number of accidents caused by distracted driving, other states may follow suit and make their distracted driving penalties harsher."
For questions, comments and news tips, email reporter Whitney Woodworth at firstname.lastname@example.org, call 503-399-6884 or follow on Twitter @wmwoodworth