On any given day, driving has been an adventure in recent years. Motorists sit at traffic lights under drivers lined up behind them honk. Others suddenly veer this way or that going down the road. And we can’t count the number of near misses we’ve had in recent years with people who tailgate or go whizzing by into oncoming traffic, oblivious to their whereabouts.

The culprit, more often than not, has been drivers texting or gabbing on their cellphones. Texting while driving already is illegal; on Sept. 19, holding your cellphone to talk will become against the law too. You will still be able to talk if you can do so hands-free, such as a device running Bluetooth, or in emergnecy situations while parked, but otherwise, no cellphone use while driving. Period.

It’s about time. More than 6 percent of drivers on Maine roads were talking on a phone or manipulating a device, according to a 2018 survey of almost 13,600 vehicles; we would suspect the actual number is higher. Either way, that is thousands of motorists, at any given time, who are most likely distracted behind the wheel. Thousands of drivers who are taking a chance not only with their own lives, but those of others who are on the road at the same time.

Fines for violating the law will start at $50 for a first offense and can go up to $500 and a three-month license suspension for multiple violations. State police issued more than 1,600 tickets last year for texting while driving; when the new law goes into effect, we think it’s a pretty safe bet that the number of tickets, at least in the short term, are going to skyrocket.

We urge folks to put their phones down while driving now, to start developing a new habit of no cellphone use while driving. Not only will it save you the cost of a fine; it will make the roads safer for all of us.

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