EUGENE, Ore. - Imagine driving down a highway and coming across an accident. You pull out your cell phone, dial 911, but instead of getting a live operator, you get a recording.
"That's ridiculous because that's not something you can do with 911, especially if someone was, you know, in a life or death situation where they only had just a split second to make a phone call," said Jessica.
A few nights ago, Jessica says she found a drunk driver who crashed on Lorane Highway. KVAL News is only identifying her by her first name because she says she fears from retaliation from the driver.
Neither police or emergency crews were at the scene, so she says she called 911 several times. Jessica says she was not able to get a dispatcher on the line until she drove home.
Since the beginning of November, Central Lane Communications has been using software that filters 911 calls from cell phones, and Jessica may have been confused.
When placing the emergency call, cell users now have to press a key, or say "9-1-1" after a recorded message in order to get a live dispatcher.
KVAL News tested the system Tuesday afternoon, with the oversight of communications managers. We found that just dialing and yelling for help will not immediately get a live dispatcher to your line. We found out the fastest way to talk to someone is to press a key.
"We're only looking at the most, a 9 seconds on a telephone call and during that time, a person can still punch in the numbers and bypass that message," said Captain Steve Swenson, 911 director, Eugene Police Department. "It's very unlikely that anything a 9 second delay is going to make a difference in a response."
Those who implemented the system say with more than 60 percent of calls coming from cell phones, the goal is to combat "pocket dialing."
"We can not put extra staff on the phones as the call volume is increasing, so we thought, well it makes sense to get rid of the unintentional calls," said Kristi Wilde, communications program manager, Central Lane Communications.
But Jessica believes the risks could outweigh the benefits.
"I'd rather have a bunch of mistake calls and save one person's life, than prevent all these mistake calls and have somebody die over it," said Jessica.
It's important to note that all unanswered 911 calls will eventually get a return call from a live dispatcher.
Call centers in Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington counties also use this automated system. KVAL News called officials there to find out how it's working, but as of Tuesday night, our calls were not returned.