Gov. Janet Mills signed An Act to Prohibit the Use of Handheld Devices and Phones While Driving (LD 165) into law last week. The new law that will be effective on September 19th, tightens rules that address using your phone while driving.

The major points of the new law address how and when you can touch your phone.  The law doesn’t leave much room for error.  You cannot hold your phone while driving for any reason.  If you have an incoming call while driving, the only way to lawfully answer the phone is through a hands-free option. You may touch the screen with your finger to accept the call.

Are you wondering how texting is affected by this law?  The current texting law has been in effect since 2011, which hasn’t changed.  Texting while driving is prohibited.  Lt. Bruce Scott of the Maine State Police states “you cannot compose a text while driving. It is illegal to text while driving regardless of the method used.”

You may not text at a stop light.  If you receive a notification that you have received a text, you cannot pick up the phone to read the message.  If the option exists to hear text messages through a hands-free option, you can touch the screen to listen to the message only.  You cannot reply to a text message while driving. If you need to reply to a text, you must pull over to a safe location on the side of road, before composing a text message.

The basic rule to remember is that you may touch your phone to activate the hands free option. Any additional handling of a phone while driving is a violation.  An officer must observe a violation of the law before pulling a driver over.  The penalty for violating the law is a $50 fine for the first offense and not less than $250 for additional violations within a three-year period.

Nick Schroeder from the Bangor Daily News interviewed Lt. Bruce Scott of the Maine State Police to pose real driving situations and what drivers can and cannot do under the law.  The full interview addresses additional situations that are impacted by this new law.