Maine’s legislature passed a law last month banning the use of handheld devices while driving.
The bill prohibits any driver from using a cell phone or handheld device while behind the wheel, but does permit Bluetooth or similar hands-free technology. Previously, Maine banned texting while driving specifically; until now, all other bills of this type had been shot down.
State Senator Bill Diamond (D-Windham) sponsored the bill, which will penalize drivers $75 for a first offense and up to $500, along with license suspensions, for any ensuing violations. The ban passed 85-60 in the House and 21-14 in the Senate.
The bill still awaits procedural votes before Governor Paul Lepage can sign it. If the bill passes, Maine will join 15 other states in banning handheld devices outright while driving.
The rule’s only exception is drivers using their device to reach the police or 911.
Both advocates and opponents of the bill voiced their opinions.
“Distracted driving is a huge issue across our nation and in the state of Maine,” State Police Major Chris Grotton said, claiming three thousand Americans die every year from distracted driving.
Others insisted that the law would be inconvenient for those who conduct business over the phone.
“The mobile phone has become the most important ingredient in my business,” said Rep. Richard Campbell, R-Orrington, a contractor and builder. “It is my office.”
However concerning the social and safety aspects may be, financials are part of any new law. This particular bill asks for $22,000 in 2017 and $65,000 in 2018, in order for the judicial branch to hire a part-time assistant clerk.
“I think we’re saving lives here. We have to remember that driving is a privilege. . .this should stop that awful, awful habit of texting while driving,” Diamond said. “We have a no texting law now. . .but we don’t have a law that says you can’t hold the phone and punch in numbers. When the police officers stop people and say you can’t be texting, the answer oftentimes is, ‘I wasn’t texting—I was typing in a number.’ This is something we need to address, innocent people have to be protected.”