AUGUSTA, Maine — The Maine Legislature has approved a bill to ban text messaging while driving, sending the proposal to Gov. Paul LePage for his signature.
After several weeks of delays, the House unanimously approved LD 736 on Monday, and the Senate followed suit with final approval hours later.
The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Bill Diamond, D-Windham, said Maine would become the last New England state to ban texting if the governor signs the bill.
“Studies have shown that texting while driving decreases response time as much as drinking,” Diamond said in a news release. “Maine has had several high-profile accidents in the last year involving texting, and it has become a real problem. Maine will now join over 30 other states that have banned the practice. This is one new law that will actually have quick and positive results.”
Two years ago, Maine lawmakers approved a distracted-driving law sponsored by Diamond that targeted a variety of activities, but Diamond said it didn’t go far enough.
The new proposal makes it a $100 fine for texting, regardless of whether it causes an accident.
Diamond said education also would be a key factor in reducing incidents of texting while driving.
“We need to reach out to people, especially young people, and show them how dangerous this behavior is,” Diamond said.
Rep. Paulette Beaudoin, D-Biddeford, cosponsored the bill.
“It has been a long time coming,” she said in a release. “Many lives will now be saved because of this bill.”
During a public hearing before the Legislature’s Transportation Committee in March, only the Maine Civil Liberties Union spoke against the bill.
At that hearing, MCLU attorney Alysia Melnick said her group had concerns, both about the efficacy of the proposed law and of the chance that drivers could be unfairly targeted by police if texting is made a primary offense. The group did support the distracted driving law, which she characterized as a compromise that works.