Last Friday Maine passed a law to ban texting while driving. The new law, which goes into effect on September 1, 2011, prohibits reading or manually composing any written electronic message while driving. The penalty is a $100 fine. It is not a crime for which jail can be imposed. It is a traffic violation.
It is interesting that the penalty is only $100 or so for an offense that clearly impairs a person’s ability to drive. In Maine a DUI carries a penalty of 364 days in jail, but the level of impairment is so low that you can be convicted even if the level of alcohol or drugs in your system does not impair your driving in any way. So now if you are weaving down the road texting, the worst that can happen is a fine. But if you have a tiny bit of physical impairment from alcohol that does not appreciably affect your driving, you can go to jail for a year.
Here is the text of the new law.
“An Act To Prohibit Texting while Driving
Be it enacted by the People of the State of Maine as follows:
Sec. 1. 29-A MRSA §2119 is enacted to read:
§ 2119. Text messaging while operating motor vehicle; prohibition
1. Definitions. As used in this section, unless the context otherwise indicates, the following terms have the following meanings.
A. “Cellular telephone” means a device used to access wireless telephone service.
B. “Portable electronic device” means any portable electronic device that is not part of the operating equipment of a motor vehicle, including but not limited to an electronic game, device for sending or receiving e-mail, text messaging device, cellular telephone and computer.
C. “Text messaging” means reading or manually composing electronic communications, including text messages, instant messages and e-mails, using a portable electronic device. “Text messaging” does not include using a global positioning or navigation system.
2. Prohibition. A person may not operate a motor vehicle while engaging in text messaging.
3. Penalty. A person who violates this section commits a traffic infraction for which a fine of not less than $100 may be adjudged.”