Bills to Watch: Higher Fines for Texting While Driving (LD 145)
LD 145, submitted at a constituent’s request by Rep. Stanley Zeigler (D-Montville), would significantly raise fines for Mainers ticketed for driving while using an electronic device in situations “including but not limited to…while the vehicle is temporarily stationary because of traffic, a traffic light or a stop sign.”
“An Act to Increase the Penalties for Operation of a Motor Vehicle While Using a Handheld Electronic Device or Mobile Telephone” proposes to raise the fine for the first offense of ten-times the current penalty to $500. For the second offense, it proposes to quadruple the current penalty to $1000, and for the third and subsequent offenses, the bill adds an additional penalty of license revocation.
Current law provides an exemption for drivers who utilize a “hands-free mode” on their device, within Title 29-A, §2121, sub-§2:
“The operator of a motor vehicle may use a hand to activate or deactivate a feature or function of a mobile telephone or handheld electronic device that is in hands-free mode and mounted or affixed to the vehicle in a location that does not interfere with the operator’s view of the road if the feature or function activated requires only a single swipe, tap or push of the operator’s finger.”
But, if police find a driver using more than one finger to operate a cell phone, even while stopped in traffic, they may issue a fine. LD 145 would make these penalties steep, even for a first-time offender.