Q: What does the new law say, and when does it take effect?

A: Starting Sept. 19, drivers are prohibited from using, manipulating or holding mobile phones, hand-held electronic devices or portable electronic devices while operating a motor vehicle, unless specifically exempted by law.

Q: Will there be a “warning” period from police to allow motorists to get used to the new law?

A: No. Expect swift and widespread enforcement with few exceptions, starting on the day the law takes effect.

Q: What are the penalties?

A: First-time offenders face a $50 fine. Subsequent offenses are $250.

Q: Can I hold my phone in my hand while I drive, even if I’m not making a call, texting or using the phone in any way?

A: No. Drivers are not permitted to manipulate a phone or any other electronic device while driving. If you’re behind the wheel, the car is moving, and the phone is in your hand, you’re breaking the law.

Q: What are the permissible ways I can interact with a phone or electronic device while I drive?

A: Phones must be held securely in a cradle or otherwise attached to the vehicle in some way. Once affixed to the dash or other part of the car, drivers are allowed a single touch, tap or swipe to activate a hands-free mode or hands-free feature.

Q: Where can I mount the phone?

A: Anywhere in the vehicle that doesn’t obstruct your view of the road.

Q: My phone is secured in a cradle. Can I search for a song or enter an address for GPS while I drive?

A: The only interaction drivers are permitted is a single touch, tap or swipe, such as answering a call or activating a hands-free mode, such as Siri or by using Android voice commands. Drivers must first pull over to a safe location and stop the vehicle before having any further interaction with the device.

Q: Can I text or make a phone call if my car is pulled over and idling?

A: Yes, your car can be idling as long as you are in a safe, lawful location and not obstructing traffic in any way.

Q: I’m under 18 and have an intermediate license, or have only a learner’s permit to drive. What rules apply to me?

A: There are further restrictions for people without a full license. Under separate Maine laws, anyone under 18 with an intermediate license is still prohibited from using a cellphone or other electronic device while driving. Anyone with a learner’s permit is also prohibited from using cellphones or electronic devices.

Q: What if there is an emergency?

A: Under the new law, drivers are permitted to call “law enforcement or other emergency services personnel.” A driver operating on a permit is not granted this exception.

Q: What if I use my cellphone for GPS?

A: You may use your phone as a GPS, but you may not manually interact with it unless it is mounted or affixed to the vehicle. Even then, you may only perform a single push, swipe or tap to activate or deactivate a hands-free feature or function. When in doubt, enter the address before you begin driving, or pull over to a safe location to change or enter a new address.

Q: My car is equipped with a Bluetooth device and it reads my text messages out loud to me. May I reply to them via my voice? Is that considered hands-free?

A: The law allows you to use your device in hands-free mode, so you may use your Bluetooth to read texts to you out loud and use your voice-to-text feature to compose a text, provided you safety maintain control of your vehicle while doing so.

Q: Can I hold my phone and talk into the microphone to compose a text message?

A: No. If the phone is in your hand and you’re driving, you’re breaking the law.

Q: Does this new law ban the use of ignition interlock devices or snowplow controls? What about CB radios?

A: No. Interlock devices and snowplow controls are considered part of the operating equipment of the vehicle and are exempt from this law. CB radios are also exempt under a separate statute, provided you safely maintain control of the motor vehicle while using them.

Q: Can I use my phone when I’m stopped at a red light, or stuck in traffic?

A: No. If you’re in the road and behind the wheel, the rules still apply, whether the car is moving or not.

Q: Can I text and drive?

A: No. Texting while driving is illegal, even if you are stopped temporarily at a traffic light, bus stop, construction site, stop sign or any other time you are temporarily stopped in the road. You may use voice-to-text to send a message, but only while also complying with the hands-free law. If your phone doesn’t have that feature, you must pull off the side of the road, find a safe place to park and then write the message.

Source: Maine State Police, Bureau of Motor Vehicles

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