Driving while under the influence of a podcast

June 14, 2010

I typically listen to podcasts on my iPhone in the car.  This has pretty much replaced listening to the radio.  I simply toss my iPhone on the passenger seat while listening.

The other day, I held my iPhone in my hand to hear better because I had the window open.  A driver in another car yelled at me to “stop yapping on your phone and drive” (he actually said it much more colorfully).  Of course the other driver had no idea that I was listening to a show.  I would say that this was no more dangerous than holding a cup of coffee while listening to the radio (OK, that’s probably dangerous too.)  It left me wondering whether I was violating Oregon’s new cell phone law.

Here’s a summary of the law:

Operating a Motor Vehicle While Using a Mobile Communication Device

House Bill 2377 amended ORS 811.507 to ban the use of mobile communication devices with some exceptions. The new law, a class D traffic violation with a minimum base fine of $142.00, is effective January 1, 2010 and is a primary offense, meaning that a police officer may stop a driver solely for using a cell phone without using a hands-free accessory. For purposes of the new law, “mobile communication device” is defined as a text messaging device or a wireless, two-way communication device designed to receive and transmit voice or text communication. Exceptions provided in the law are:

A person activating or deactivating the mobile communication device or a function of the device (note: dialing is considered the same as texting and is not a “function of the device)

Hitting “play” on a podcast would seem to fall under this exception.  Furthermore, the iPhone is not being used for two-way communication while simply listening to a show.  However, the exception language doesn’t clearly apply to this situation.  The law should probably be amended to address smartphone functionality (e.g., I certainly shouldn’t be able to play an iPhone game while driving).  Where do I send my $142?

A better way to address the issue would be to require drivers to have both hands on the wheel except when using a hand to use another control (e.g., turn signal, radio, etc.).  That would address holding a coffee cup, eating a sandwich, applying makeup, reading a map, etc.  The issue is really less about cellphone use and more about focus while driving.

Separately, how is the following exception interpreted?  For example, can a real estate agent use it?

A person operating a motor vehicle in the scope of the person’s employment if operation of the motor vehicle is necessary for the person’s job.

I have no idea what “necessary for the person’s job” means.

According to the Tribune, Oregon drivers are returning to old habits and using cellphones while driving.

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One Response to “Driving while under the influence of a podcast”


  1. […] I typically listen to podcasts on my iPhone in the car.  This has pretty much replaced listening to the radio.  I simply toss my iPhone on the passenger seat while listening. The other day, I held my iPhone in my hand to hear better because I had the window open.  A driver in another car yelled at me to "stop yapping on your phone and drive" (he actually said it much more colorfully).  Of course the other driver had no idea that I was listening t … Read More […]


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