I was just curious, are Jackson County sheriff's officers "above the law," so to speak? Driving home from work today, a sheriff's deputy pulled up next to me at a red light and I noticed that he was talking on a hand-held cell phone. Then when the light turned green, he continued to drive and talk. I thought talking on a hand-held device while driving was illegal?
— Jon, via e-mail
No, Jon, we're happy to report that the deputy you saw was a law-abiding citizen. Oregon's ban on using hand-held cell phones while driving, passed by the 2009 Legislature, offered up a number of exemptions, including one for "a person operating a motor vehicle while acting in the scope of the person's employment as a public safety officer ... ."
The law lists a number of other exemptions, noting it also does not apply:
- To a person who is summoning medical or other emergency help if no other person in the vehicle is capable of summoning help.
- To a person using a mobile communication device for the purpose of farming or agricultural operations.
- To a person operating an ambulance or emergency vehicle.
- To a person 18 years of age or older who is using a hands-free accessory.
- To a person operating a motor vehicle while providing public safety services or emergency services as a volunteer.
- To 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.
- To a person activating or deactivating the mobile communication device or a function of the device.
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