PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – As April marks Distracted Driving Awareness Month, Oregon State Police are reminding drivers about the dangers it poses on the road.

Distracted driving is anything in the vehicle that takes the driver’s attention off the road and reduces their ability to react, according to Oregon State Police Captain Kyle Kennedy. Distracted driving can include anything from using a phone to loud music in the car.

“There’s a number of things that occur inside a vehicle that are going to take your eyes off the road, and you know that delays our reactions and that’s precious time when you’re traveling at high speeds,” Kennedy said.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 3,522 people died in distracted driving crashes in 2021. From 2016-2020 in Oregon, 15,538 crashes led to 186 deaths and 24,126 injuries from distracted driving, according to the Oregon Department of Transportation.

“Particularly this month, we’re going to be out there looking to educate drivers and contact those who are using cell phone devices or maybe moving around in their lane or even outside of their lane due to distraction. We take an educational approach first when it’s appropriate and take that opportunity to show people how it’s impacting the roadways,” Kennedy explained.

In Oregon, Kennedy says, a first offense for using an electronic device while driving is a B violation with a presumptive $265 fine. If distracted driving leads to a crash on a first infraction, Kennedy says drivers face an A violation with a presumptive fine of $440.

Drivers who are caught a third time for using an electronic device while driving face a B misdemeanor and the lowest fine of $2,000, Kennedy explained.

“According to the law, if you are even holding [a cell phone] in your hand and it’s on speakerphone, it’s still in your hand, you’re still using it,” Kennedy told KOIN 6 News.

The OSP captain recommends drivers use hands-free devices that are built into vehicles or have phones mounted.