Thursday, 11 April 2019 17:32

Hands-free law could come to Maine if bill passes Featured

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AUGUSTA - April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month, and some state lawmakers and law enforcement officials are trying to prevent distracted driving from hurting more people.

 

According to the American Automobile Association (AAA), distracted driving takes nine lives a day on average. So some state lawmakers are looking to ban the use of hand-held phones and devices while driving.

 

"These statistics are largely understated, due to the fact that people don't admit to using a smartphone or being distracted after a crash," Eric Cyr, the president of Northern New England AAA.

 

A car involved in a distracted driving crash was parked outside the Maine State House Thursday.

 

Law enforcement, legislators, and AAA officials held a press conference around it to raise awareness, ahead of a public hearing on the hands free bill.

 

While using a phone or GPS attached to the dashboard would still be legal, the bill's sponsor wants Maine to join more than a dozen other states that prohibit the use of a device in the hands of the driver.

 

"Cell phones now are used for much more than just texting and talking. They're used for photographing, GPS," said the bill's sponsor, Sen. Wiliam Diamond, D - Windham.

 

Texting is illegal in Maine, but talking on a hand held device is not.

 

"It's the same device. You're holding it and the distractions are the same," said Sen. Diamond.

 

An effort for a similar hands free bill passed through the state legislature last session, but was vetoed by then Governor Paul LePage.

 

Now county sheriffs are joining the bill's sponsor to say it's time to pass the bill for good.

 

"This is the start of the tourist season...they're not going to be familiar with the roads," said Sheriff Bill King, from the York County Sheriff's Office. "They're going to be making sudden stops so that's all the more reason to please keep your eyes on the road."

 

Lawmakers want to see holding a phone while driving as taboo as not wearing a seat belt, or driving drunk.

 

AAA has its own catch phrase, "don't drive intoxicated, don't drive intexticated".

 

"I think this will become the same kind of not acceptable act," said Sen. Diamond.

 

The bill's sponsor said he has not heard any opposition to the bill so far.

 

If passed, the bill would mean a $75 fine for the first offense, and $150 within a three year period for a second offense.

 

Kelly Mitchell

Reporter
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Kelly Mitchell joined the news team in March of 2018. She grew up splitting her time between York, ME and Haverhill, MA, but her favorite childhood memories took place along the rocky coast of southern Maine. She's now e...