Senate Democrats introduce bills to keep Mainers safe from distracted driving

Posted: April 16, 2019 | Senator Claxton, Senator Diamond, Transportation

AUGUSTA — Sen. Ned Claxton, D-Auburn, and Sen. Bill Diamond, D-Windham, presented bills that would ban the use of hand-held electronic devices while driving. LD 280, “An Act To Improve Public Safety by Restricting the Use of Distracting Electronic Devices While Operating a Motor Vehicle” and LD 165, “An Act To Prohibit the Use of Handheld Phones and Devices While Driving.”

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, “about 3,000 people die and 400,000 are injured in the U.S. each year in crashes involving distracted driving”. Despite bans in 47 states, smartphone use behind the wheel is a common problem. New research released by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety finds that even though 97 percent of drivers say texting/emailing while driving is a serious or very serious threat to their safety, 45 percent admit to having read a text or email while driving in the past month, and 35 percent admit to typing one.

“I submitted this bill at the request of a constituent injured by a distracted driver and because of some of the behaviors I have seen on the roads. My constituent was injured when a vehicle crossed the yellow line on a two lane road and ran into him as he was headed the other direction,” said Sen. Claxton. “The distracted driver was looking down into the passenger’s seat at a cell phone that she was using for GPS guidance.”

This problem is so pervasive that April has been named Distracted Driving Month and important bills like LD 165 and LD 280 are one step closer keeping Mainers safe from this persistent threat.

“Hand held cell phone use while driving has reached an epidemic level that is dangerous and needs to stop,” said Sen. Diamond. “When drivers take their hands off their wheel and pick up the phone, they aren’t focusing on the road and they are putting themselves and others at risk. The data overwhelmingly show that this is a growing problem, and the clear solution is making ‘hands free’ the law on Maine roads.”

Sen. Claxton and Sen. Diamond participated in a press conference put on by AAA Northern New England directly preceding the hearings for LD 165 and LD 280.

Sen. Diamond and Claxton with Windham Patrol Officer William Andrew at AAA press conference on distracted driving at the State House Thursday.

These bills face more action in the committee, and votes before the full Maine House and Senate.