February 23, 2013

Few object to Maine cellphone ban for drivers at hearing

A bill seeks to bar use of the hand-held type, but it has numerous exemptions that some officials oppose.

By Michael Shepherd mshepherd@mainetoday.com
State House Bureau

(Continued from page 1)

Today's poll: Using cellphone while driving

Should Maine expand its distracted driving laws to include handheld cellphone use by most drivers?

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A driver talks on his cellphone while driving on Portland's Congress Street on Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2012.

John Ewing / Staff Photographer

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Maine law prohibits drivers with learner's permits and drivers younger than 18 from using a cellphone behind the wheel. In the past two years, 191 people have been charged with breaking those laws, said the Secretary of State's Office.

The bill heard Wednesday is nearly identical to one that was submitted in 2011 by Rep. Cynthia Dill, D-Cape Elizabeth, and killed in the Legislature.

The same year, Sen. Bill Diamond, D-Windham, got a law passed to ban texting while driving. He also sponsored the distracted-driver law of 2009.

Diamond said such measures "take a few cycles to pass." He said Beaudoin's bill may do better than previous bills because of increased awareness about distracted driving.

"I think we're getting close to it," Diamond said. "It's all about timing."

The Maine Association of Realtors, whose members often work from their cars, has opposed cellphone legislation in the past. But Realtors will take no position on the current bill, and many members think that talking while driving should be illegal, said Megan Sanborn, the association's spokeswoman.

"The general consensus is that cellphones are becoming more of a distraction," Sanborn said. "At this point, we see it as a safety issue."

Portland Press Herald Staff Writer Eric Russell contributed to this report.

Michael Shepherd can be contacted at 620-7015 or at:

mshepherd@pressherald.com

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Today's poll: Using cellphone while driving

Should Maine expand its distracted driving laws to include handheld cellphone use by most drivers?

Yes

No

View Results