The fine for a first-time violation of the state’s new distracted driving law has been lowered from $230 to $85.
State Sen. Bill Diamond, D-Windham, who spearheaded the action, said $230 was costlier than intended and late last week asked the Maine Judicial Branch to address the issue.
The Judicial Branch subsequently agreed to change the waiver fine for the first offense of using a hand-held device while driving. For the next six months, the total waiver amount will be $85, which will allow legislators to clarify the fine amount during the next session.
“This action has been taken to eliminate any confusion that may have been caused by information previously released to the public regarding the amount of the first offense fine, and in recognition of the Legislature’s apparent expectation regarding that fine,” a news release posted on the Judicial Branch website says.
Before the change, the first time fine of $230 was on par with the amount imposed for driving 20 miles over the speed limit.
“I am proud of the quick action of the Trial Court Chief in addressing the confusion over fines relating to this recent legislation,” Chief Justice Leigh Saufley said in the news release. “And I thank Senator Diamond for helping to assure that, with regard to administrative matters that may have an impact on the public, the lines of communication among the branches of government remain strong.”
Texting while driving has been illegal in Maine since 2011. The new law, which went into effect Sept. 19, specifically prohibits drivers from holding any electronic device not part of a vehicle’s operating equipment, according to the Maine Bureau of Highway Safety website.
Under the new law, drivers are still permitted to use voice commands to make calls or send texts. When a cell phone is attached to the inside of the vehicle, drivers can use a hand to push, swipe or tap the phone to work a feature or function.