AUGUSTA — Several new laws affecting drivers have gone into effect in Maine.
Under one of the new laws that went into effect Wednesday, Maine drivers cited for texting while driving will get a $250 minimum fine for their first violation and $500 fine for second and subsequent violations within three years. Repeat offenders will face a mandatory license suspension.
Other new laws include one that extends the license suspension for operating under the influence offenders that have been cited three or more times within 10 years. The suspension would be extended from six to eight years.
Here are noteworthy changes that will Maine affect drivers, according to the Department of Motor Vehicles website:
• A driver who is cited for texting while driving will receive a $250 minimum fine for a first time violation and a $500 fine on a second or subsequent offense within three years. In addition, texting violations will now include a 30-day license suspension on a second offense; a 60-day suspension on a third offense; and a 90-day suspension on a fourth or subsequent violation.
These suspension periods are mandatory, without a right to a hearing.
• The minimum practice time for a driver under the age of 21 who applies for a learner’s permit on or after Oct. 9, 2013 has increased from 35 to 70 hours, including an increase in night driving from five to 10 hours.
Drivers completing their practice time must be accompanied by a parent, guardian or licensed driver at least 20 years old. Additionally, while the permit exam is administered by the driving school prior to program completion, the law now requires all learners’ permits to be issued only by the Secretary of State.
• Previously, active duty military personnel had 30 days to obtain a non-military identification card or license after discharge from service; they will now have up to 180 days.
• Bicyclists are now part of the definition of “traffic” and a collision between a motor vehicle and a bicyclist or roller skier is prima facie evidence that the motorist violated the three-foot law.
• Police officers as well as the BMV may now accept proof of current insurance in electronic form.
• An officer may, at his or her discretion, issue a permit to travel directly home or to the BMV if a driver is found to be operating illegally on an expired license.
• The suspension period for an Operating Under the Influence offender with three or more previous offenses within 10 years has been increased from six years to eight years.
• The license of a person with four or more OUI offenses may be eligible for early reinstatement after serving four years of the suspension period if an approved ignition interlock device is installed for a period of four years.
Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap said he hopes the new laws will continue to improve safety on the road in Maine.