AUGUSTA – Maine lawmakers unanimously agreed Monday that texting and driving do not mix.

Without debate, the House and Senate approved legislation that bans texting while driving and allows police to impose a $100 fine on anybody caught doing it.

The legislation makes it clear that texting while driving is socially unacceptable, said the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Bill Diamond, D-Windham. He said the stigma of getting a summons from police will cause many people to rid themselves of their bad texting habits.

“Most people do not want to break the law,” he said.

Gov. Paul LePage has not indicated whether he will sign the bill, and his office said Monday that it does not know his position. Diamond said he expects LePage will sign L.D. 736 because it won unanimous approval.

The law would go into in effect in mid-September, 90 days after the Legislature ends its session.

Diamond said Maine would be the last state in New England to ban texting while driving and the 31st state in the nation to prohibit it.

Officials from AAA of Northern New England have agreed to publicize the law.

The Maine Chiefs of Police Association and Maine Motor Transport were among the many groups that testified in support of the ban.

The Maine Civil Liberties Union opposed it, arguing that it would be ineffective and allow police to make discretionary vehicle stops.

Diamond said a distracted-driving law that he sponsored two years ago didn’t accomplish what was hoped for because it didn’t explicitly ban texting. That law prohibits any activity that isn’t necessary to the operation of the vehicle and could reasonably be expected to impair driving.

Diamond said people who text while driving put themselves and others at risk, just like drunk drivers.

He said studies show that a person who is texting while driving is as impaired as someone who has a blood alcohol content of 0.13 percent. In Maine, someone with a blood alcohol content of 0.08 percent can be arrested for operating under the influence.

MaineToday Media State House Writer Tom Bell can be contacted at 699-6261 or at:

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