My 12 year old son is really into cars. The first thing he checks out is the vehicle’s computer display. He fully expects his first car to be self-driving with “smart glass,” which would turn his car windows into video displays. While this could very well be a reality for him, I am already talking with him about defensive driving and the responsibility that comes with the privilege.
According to the National Safety Council, motor vehicles deaths have been estimated at 40,000/year for the third straight year. In 2018, an estimated 4.5 million people were seriously injured in a motor vehicle crash.
There are many contributing factors behind these numbers, but there is little doubt that there has been an increase in distracted driving with the widespread use of cell phones and their increasing technological capabilities. The National Safety Council has many great articles of Distracted Driving that you can read here: Distracted Driving.
Maine Bans the Use of Handheld Phones and Devices While Driving
On September 19, 2019, it will be against the law to use handheld phones and devices while driving in Maine. The law PL 2019, c. 486 states that “A person may not operate a motor vehicle on a public way while using, manipulating, talking into or otherwise interacting with a handheld electronic device or mobile telephone, including but not limited to the use of a handheld electronic device or mobile telephone while the vehicle is temporarily stationary because of traffic, a traffic light or a stop sign.”
What about if you pull off to the side of the road?
The new law states “A person who has pulled a motor vehicle to the side of, or off, a public way and has halted in a location where the motor vehicle can safely remain stationary may use, manipulate, talk into or otherwise interact with a handheld electronic device or mobile telephone.”
How about hands-free mode?
“A person who has attained 18 years of age and is not operating with an intermediate license…or a learner’s permit…may use a mobile telephone or handheld electronic device while operating a motor vehicle if the mobile telephone or handheld electronic device is being used in hands-free mode.
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.”
Are there any exceptions?
Yes. But limited.
“The person is employed as a commercial driver or a school bus driver and is using a handheld electronic device or mobile telephone within the scope of the person’s employment as permitted under Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulations.”
“The person, other than a person who is operating with a learner’s permit…is using a mobile telephone or handheld electronic device in order to communicate with law enforcement or emergency services personnel under emergency circumstances.” An emergency circumstance means there is an immediate threat to the health or well-being of any person.
Is there a fine?
Yes. For the first offense the fine is at least $50 and at least $250 for a second or subsequent offense.
Is it Worth the Risk?
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is actively involved in preventing distracted driving through a number of public information and awareness campaigns such as U Drive. U Text. U Pay. They ask every person to take the pledge to:
- Protect lives by never texting or talking on the phone while driving.
- Be a good passenger and speak out if the driver in my car is distracted.
- Encourage my friends and family to drive phone-free.
Setting an Example
Technological advances bring great benefits to our lives, but also associated risks. Let’s be the example for the next generation of drivers. When getting behind the wheel let’s make sure we are focused on driving; there is no substitute for concentrating on the task at hand.
At Cheney Insurance we care about you. Drive safe today!