On June 19, the Maine Legislature approved a bill that bans drivers from using cell phones and other handheld devices.
Although texting and driving was already illegal in Maine, that older law had been difficult to enforce. Senator Bill Diamond, sponsor of the new law, said it will make “tremendous changes in terms of the safety of our highways.”
The new measure prohibits the use of a handheld device while driving, even while idling at a red light or stopped in traffic. Maine will be one of 20 states and the District of Columbia to adopt a stricter stance against cellphone use while driving.
The new law includes the following:
- Drivers over the age of 18 with a full license may use their phones in ‘hands-free’ mode via a headset or when the phone is mounted to a part of the vehicle that does not obscure their view of the road. Drivers using a mounted device can only interact with it via a single finger swipe or tap.
- Drivers may use their phones while parked or to call 911 to report an emergency.
- First offenders will be fined $50 while repeat offenders could be fined up to $500 and lose their license for three months.
The Bicycle Coalition of Maine supported the bill. Its executive director, John Williams, said that many drivers have passed him at a dangerously close distance while he was riding his bike, and a glance confirmed that they were on their phone and not paying attention.
Maine has been taking an increasingly stronger stance on cell phone use behind the wheel. In 2017, the state Supreme Judicial Court ruled that circumstantial evidence may be enough to prove violations in fatal distracted driving accidents. Direct proof of what activity distracted the driver is not required in order to prove a violation.
The new law will strengthen enforcement even more.
An Overview of Phone Use While Driving
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, phone use while driving is one of the leading causes of distracted driving crashes. In 2017, an estimated 3,160 people died on U.S. roads due to inappropriate cellphone use.
Although texting and driving has been illegal in Maine since 2011, drivers had been permitted to use their phones to dial out, get directions, or play music. Advocates of the new law say that a complete ban on holding a phone while driving is easier to enforce and will be more effective in improving road safety.
Maine law enforcement issued 1,600 tickets in 2018; however, a survey of nearly 13,600 vehicles revealed that over 6% of drivers in Maine talked on their phone or used a device while driving. Two years earlier, an estimated 750 Maine drivers involved in crashes were found to have been using their cell phones at the time of the crash.
Officials commented that they expect at least five times as many violations related to handheld devices during the first year that the new ban is in effect. A fiscal analysis of the proposal estimated that nearly $517,000 in fines could be collected every year for the next three years.
The new law takes effect September 19, 2019.
Contact a Maine Personal Injury Attorney
Distracted driving presents a serious injury risk to pedestrians, bicyclists, and other motorists. When checking texts or emails takes priority over safe driving, the outcome can be brain and spinal cord injury, broken bones, soft tissue injury, and even disability or death.
At Fales & Fales, P.A., we believe that distracted drivers should be held fully accountable for injuries they cause. Our personal injury attorneys fight for the rights and the futures of those harmed by negligent drivers. For more information or to schedule a consultation, please, contact us.