November 1, 2019

Legislative Council accepts Sen. Diamond bill to clarify the language of Maine’s new “hands-free” distracted driving law

LR 2739 would make technical revisions to the language in Maine’s new “hands-free” distracted driving law.

AUGUSTA — The Legislative Council on Wednesday unanimously approved a bill from Sen. Bill Diamond, D-Windham, to clarify the language in Maine’s new “hands-free” distracted driving law
The legislation — LR 2739, “An Act To Amend the Laws Prohibiting the Use of Handheld Phones and Devices While Driving” — would make technical revisions to Maine’s new “hands-free” distracted driving law, including clarifying the fine amount and the law’s applicability to parking lots, and exempting all two-way radios.

“Maine’s new ‘hands-free’ distracted driving law is a big change for drivers in the state, and it’s
already making our roads safer,” said Sen. Diamond. “But it’s important that everything in the law is consistent and clear, which is why these minor revisions are needed.”

The new “hands-free” distracted driving law, which took effect on September 19, prohibits the use of a handheld electronic device while driving. A discrepancy in the text of the law allowed the courts to charge violators more than was originally intended, but after a call between Sen. Diamond and Maine Supreme Court Chief Justice Saufley, the courts decided to keep the fine at its original intended amount until the law could be revised.

Recent reporting from the Press Herald indicates that police officers in Maine wrote 232 tickets under the new law in its first month. 

Bills submitted for consideration during the Second Regular Session, which begins January 8, must be approved by a majority of the 10-member Legislative Council. The Council consists of the 10 elected members of legislative leadership.

The bill was approved by the Legislative Council on October 23 to be considered as an emergency measure, and will be introduced in the 2020 session of the legislature.

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