May 10, 2019

Diamond bill to keep Mainers safe from distracted driving passes committee unanimously

AUGUSTA — A bill introduced by Sen. Bill Diamond, D-Windham, and supported by Sen. Ned Claxton, D-Auburn, was unanimously endorsed by the Legislature’s Transportation Committee on Thursday, May 2. LD 165, “An Act To Prohibit the Use of Handheld Phones and Devices While Driving,” would require that electronic devices used while driving are hands-free.

“Distracted driving is a growing epidemic on our roads and highways,” said Sen. Diamond. “We all see it every day — people behind the wheel fiddling with phones and other electronic devices, their eyes off the road and their hands off the wheel. I’m so grateful the committee has taken this important step to curb the dangerous epidemic of distracted driving.”

Sen. Ned Claxton, D-Auburn, supports Sen. Diamond’s bill.

“I became passionate about this issue after hearing about one of my constituents who was injured when a distracted driver crossed the yellow line while looking at a cellphone,” said Sen. Claxton. “It’s critical that we take steps to keep the roads safe for everyone.”

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, “about 3,000 people die and 400,000 are injured in the U.S. each year in crashes involving distracted driving.” Despite bans in 47 states, smartphone use behind the wheel is a common problem. New research released by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety finds that even though 97 percent of drivers say texting or emailing while driving is a serious or very serious threat to their safety, 45 percent admit to having read a text or email while driving in the past month, and 35 percent admit to typing one.

LD 165 now faces votes in the Maine Senate and House.

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