AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — Last week the Maine Legislature voted to ban the use of hand held cell phones while driving. Gov. Paul LePage on Tuesday said he vetoed that bill, yet later in the day, the governor's communications office said it has not yet officially posted the veto.
Gov. LePage said during a morning radio interview on WVOM-FM that phones aren’t the only distraction causing drivers to not pay attention and that he wants to strengthen existing laws on texting and distracted driving instead.
"My bigger issue," LePage told WVOM radio interviewers, "is going down [the road] and watching women putting on makeup, drinking coffee, having a sandwich – there are all kinds of other issues that are out there. We have a distracted driver law, we have a texting law – if they're not working let's figure out why and make them work."
Sen. Bill Diamond, D-Windham, the sponsor of the bill that passed last week, said requiring hands-free phones would save lives. He said the primary target is drivers who are still texting, even though it is illegal to do so.
"We have a law against texting but people can hold the phone today and dial up a number and say that’s what they’re doing when they know they’re texting," Sen. Diamond told NEWS CENTER. "Law enforcement knows it. It's become a plague it's gotten so bad."
The veto will be dealt with Aug. 2 when the Legislature returns for what is scheduled to be one final day. Diamond said it will be difficult to switch enough votes to override the veto. A spokesman for AAA of Northern New England, which supports a hands-free law, said it will be working to pressure lawmakers to override.
According to the Maine Judicial System, 858 people were cited last year for texting while driving.
Statistics on accidents involving cell phone use were not available Tuesday from the Department of Public Safety.