For most people in Maine, driving is not optional. Our state is rural and interconnected by 23,500 miles of public roads. Ensuring these roads are in the proper condition, and that people are being safe when they use them, is a big part of what state government does.

This year we passed a number of new laws that may affect how you drive or use Maine roads. These changes will make Maine roads better and safer for everyone.

Probably the biggest change, and the one that you may have already heard about, is the new ban on using hand held electronic devices while driving. Maine has had a ban on “distracted driving” since 2009, a ban on texting and driving since 2011. Since these laws took effect, law enforcement officers have been writing more and more tickets, and the problem has been getting worse.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that in 2017, 3,166 people across the country died in accidents related to distracted driving. That’s more than nine people a day.

Part of the problem is that officers are having difficulty enforcing the current bans. If an officer pulls someone over they suspect is texting and driving, it’s hard for them to prove that the person was actually texting, as opposed to dialing numbers into their phone. It similarly can be difficult for an officer to prove that something a driver was doing was distracting enough to impair their driving.

Hence the new “hands-free” law, which takes effect September 19. This law simply states that a person may not hold an electronic device in their hand while they are driving, while making an exception for hands-free devices or those attached to the vehicle’s dashboard. This removes any ambiguity from the current law and makes it clear that drivers’ attention should be on the road, not their devices.

Another law that goes into effect on September 19 will increase the fine for recklessly passing a parked police, emergency response or public service vehicle with its flashing lights on. Maine has had a “move over” law on the books for many years, but recent incidents have caused us to strengthen the law.

Last winter, in two separate instances, two Maine State Police Troopers were pulled over to the side of the road with their flashing lights on, and were struck by passing cars. These incidents caused Maine State Police to step up their enforcement of the “move over” law. To assist in their efforts, lawmakers have bumped up the fine for violating this law from $250 to $275.

What does this mean for you as a driver? The same thing it always has: When you see a police cruiser, an emergency vehicle or a public service vehicle on the side of the road with its flashing lights on, slow down and move over.

Speaking of lights, you may see some snowplows this winter with green lights on them. According to the Maine Department of Transportation, green lights make it easier to see vehicles in inclement weather. A new law allows snowplows to use these lights to avoid collisions during snowstorms.

If you have any questions or comments, I’d be happy to hear from you. I can be reached by email at [email protected] or by phone at (207) 287-1515. I work for you, and you have a right to hold me accountable.


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