Understanding the new Maine distracted driving law
Effective September 19, 2019, Maine law prohibits the use of handheld phones and devices while driving (see PL 2019, c. 486). This summary will be revised when the new law goes into effect.
29-A MRS §2118 defines distracted driving as operating a motor vehicle while engaging in an activity “that is not necessary to the operation of the vehicle” and “that actually impairs, or would reasonably be expected to impair, the ability of the person to safely operate the vehicle.” When combined with other factors established by §2118, distracted driving can contribute to failure to maintain control of a motor vehicle, which is a traffic infraction.
29-A MRS §2119 prohibits operation of a motor vehicle while text messaging, which is defined as using a portable electronic device for “reading or manually composing electronic communications,” including text messages, instant messages, and e-mails. It specifically excludes the use of GPS or navigation systems from the definition of text messaging. The same statute prescribes penalties for its violation, which can include a fine of not less than $250 for a first offense and a minimum 30-day license suspension for repeat offenders.
Additionally, 29-A MRS §2116 prohibits drivers under the age of 18 from operating a motor vehicle while using a mobile telephone or handheld electronic device. Similarly, 29-A MRS §1304 and §1311 prohibit persons with a learner’s permit and licensed drivers under 18, respectively, from operating a motor vehicle while using a mobile telephone or a handheld electronic device.
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