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NDPD officers witness a 200-percent increase in stops during an enhanced patrol in July

PMG FILE PHOTO - During an effort to crack down on traffic violations in July by the Newberg-Dundee Police Department, officers had 48 contacts for distracted driving or cell phone use.

Following an effort to crack down on traffic violations in the downtown area this summer, the Newberg-Dundee Police Department reported a 200 percent increase in traffic stops from the previous month.

According to a press release from the department, in the month of July the increased stops have had a positive impact on speeding, proper turns and lane usage during the peak festival season downtown. There were nine arrests for driving under the influence of intoxicants, 85 contacts for people driving while suspended, 188 contacts for speeding, 48 contacts for distracted driving or cell phone use, and 288 additional contacts for various other traffic and pedestrian related violations.

NDPD Public Information Officer Brian Hagen said the department always hopes traffic enforcement efforts have long-term effects, but reminders and revisiting problem areas is normal.

"We try to address as many citizen complaints about problem traffic areas as possible, but there are not enough officers to deal with them all at the same time, so we often rotate from one hot spot to the next," Hagen said. "We try to share these enforcement efforts publicly beforehand to reach as many people as possible. If we can get someone through a public reminder not to speed or use their cell phone without having to write a ticket, all the better."

Hagen said fines typically range from $115 for a low level infraction to up to $440 for high level ones. He said a third offense for driving while using a cell phone rises to a misdemeanor with a fine of $2,500. He added that a DUII is a crime which could result in an arrest, the loss of your license and several fines.

Enhanced traffic patrols will continue periodically throughout the year in cooperation with Oregon Impact and the Oregon Department of Transportation. Hagen said the department receives grant funding from Oregon Impact and ODOT to conduct periodic enhanced patrols beyond normal staffing. The NDPD announced it will continue enhanced traffic patrols for DUII, distracted driving and cell phone use through Labor Day weekend.

"With the nice weather bringing more visitors and pedestrian traffic to the downtown area due to Tunes on Tuesday, the Old Fashioned Festival and similar events, it makes sense to strategically conduct these enhanced patrols to get the most benefit from them over the course of the year," he said.

The summer area focused on the downtown corridor on First Street between Main and River streets. Police officers focused specifically on improper left and right turn violations, as well as vehicle and pedestrian crosswalk violations. Downtown was a focus because of increased pedestrian and vehicle activity during the summer.

Earlier this year, the department sought to crack down on distracted driving as well. On a single day in a four-hour block, officers issued 24 citations for cell phone use while operating a motor vehicle. Six citations were issued at other times of the day for a total of 30 cell phone violations. The bulk of these came from drivers who were stopped at intersections.

According to Oregon state law, it's illegal to drive while holding or using an electronic device, such as cell phones, tablets, laptops and GPS systems. Courts have the ability to waive the fine for a first-time offender who attends an approved distracted driving course within four months. Only the fine is suspended, however; the violation remains on the driver's record.

A first offense that doesn't contribute to a crash is listed as a Class B violation with a maximum fine of $1,000. A second offense, or a first offense that does contribute to a crash, is a Class A violation with a maximum fine of $2,000. A third offense in 10 years is a Class B misdemeanor and could lead to a maximum fine of $2,500 and up to six months in jail.

"The biggest standout from the latest enforcement effort is the continued use of cell phones while driving," Hagen said. "The latest and most strict version of the law has been in effect for over a year now, but many continue to disregard it."

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