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Eyes On The Road — Maine Lawmakers Consider Cellphone Ban For Drivers

LM Otero
Associated Press
A driver looks at their phone as they make their way through traffic in Dallas in March.

The Maine Legislature is looking once again at a proposed ban on the use of handheld electronic devices while driving.

The legislation is sponsored by Windham Sen. Bill Diamond, a Democrat and former secretary of state. He says there’s mounting evidence that the likelihood of having an accident increases if you are holding a cellphone to your ear or texting.

Diamond told the Legislature’s Transportation Committee that while some people would ignore the law, its passage would make highways safer.

“I think people, if this is the law here in the state of Maine. I think people are going to follow it for the most part. There will be a few, but I think most people will. And most people — that will result in a much safer highway,” he says.

The bill, which would allow the use of hands-free devices, was endorsed by the Maine State Police. Maj. Chris Grotton says it could help address the issue of distracted drivers, who account for 40 percent of all accidents in the state — that’s more than 14,000 accidents a year.

Grotton says while current law bans texting while driving, it’s difficult to enforce because an officer must be sure that the person is actually texting, and not, say, dialing a phone number.

“This is exactly the law that Maine law enforcement needs in order to be able to successfully enforce the anti-texting laws that are already on the books in Maine. The current statue is difficult and at times impossible to enforce,” he says.

The legislation also drew the support of AAA of Northern New England. Spokesman Pat Moody told the panel that after a decade of attempts, it’s time to pass a ban on using electronic devices while driving.

“Looking at the title of this, it would probably be more palatable or easier if it said no selfies, no Snapchatting, no Facebook updates while driving, and I think that is the essence of what this bill is trying to get at,” he says.

No one testified against the bill, but some committee members who had opposed similar legislation in the past pointed out that allowing hands-free cellphone use would still be a distraction.

The bill will go to the full Legislature later in the month.