ORONO, Maine (NEWS CENTER) – As a bill to ban the use of cell phones behind the wheel entirely makes its way through Augusta, police say it could help with what has otherwise been an enforcement challenge on the front lines.
As the current law stands, texting while driving is illegal in the state. The law stating: “A person may not operate a motor vehicle while engaging in text messaging.” The penalty now is a $250 fine.
The only problem is proving that the driver is actually texting, according to police agencies.
“It’s definitely hard to enforce,” Orono Police Officer Travis Morse said.
Morse said proving that someone is texting while driving is harder than proving whether or not they’re wearing a seatbelt.
"You could say you're texting and driving but most people won't so they're going to say they were manipulating their phone but most people won't,” he said.
Statewide, a total of 260 summons were issued for texting while driving by Maine State Police in 2016. 336 summons were issued for distracted driving.
Legislators say that is why they believe the bill should successfully become law, given support from state and local law enforcement.
"State police were very much part of this as were other agencies, so I think the governor probably supports this in that his agency was really the biggest help to us,” Sen. Bill Diamond said after the bill passed through the legislature Tuesday.
"You can't use you cell phone and drive and pay attention to both at the same time. You need to be attention your full focus on the road,” Morse said. "Having hands free in the state would be very beneficial to knowing that you can't use a device at all and you can enforce that law."
As it is currently written, there are exceptions for the use of a cell phone in emergency situations. Otherwise, fines would range anywhere from $75-250.