Friday, July 28, 2017

Gov. LePage vetoes Sen. Diamond’s ban on driving while using a handheld device

AUGUSTA — Gov. Paul LePage on Tuesday told reporters that he would veto a bill banning the use of handheld electronic devices while driving. The bill — L.D. 1089 — “An Act To Prohibit the Use of Handheld Phones and Devices While Driving,” — was sponsored by Sen. Bill Diamond, D-Windham.

Sen. Diamond’s bill bans the use of handheld devices, except to communicate with law enforcement
or emergency responders, while allowing the use of hands-free devices, devices secured to the dashboard and cellphones set to a hands-free mode.

The legislation was endorsed by both the Maine State Police and the American Automobile Association. Research from AAA indicates that use of a handheld device quadruples the chance of an accident, that the recent spike in accidents is directly attributable to cell phone use.

Diamond has championed legislation to prohibit distracted driving in the past. In 2011 he successfully passed a law to texting while driving. However, law enforcement agencies have said the laws are difficult to enforce because other mobile devices uses are not explicitly prohibited. LD 1089 is designed to resolve that ambiguity.
“When drivers get pulled over for texting while driving, there is nothing preventing them from saying they weren’t texting, but doing something else – like dialing in a number or looking up directions. 

Those activities are just as distracting as texting but because there is no current law against them, they can drive off and continue to look at their devices instead of the road, without consequence,” said Sen. Diamond. “While I respect the governor's right to veto bills that get to his desk, I am deeply disappointed that he chose to veto this bill because I know it will save lives and prevent tragic accidents on our highways. I will urge my colleagues to override the veto and enact this law. This bill is necessary to save keep our roads safe and save lives.”

While the Legislature has yet to receive official notice of the veto, Diamond expects the Senate to consider whether to override the veto when it reconvenes on August 2.

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