Maine has some of the strictest distracted driving laws in the nation.
Distracted driving has become a huge concern in the United States. Recent statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration indicate that more than 3,000 people die in distracted-driving accidents every year.
In this article, we’ll take a look at Maine’s laws governing distracted driving, including how distracted driving may impact your personal injury lawsuit.
What is distracted driving?
The term “distracted driving” refers to any activity that diverts your attention from driving.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), distractions can be:
- Visual: Taking your eyes off the road
- Manual: Taking your hands off the wheel
- Cognitive: Taking your mind off driving
There are all sorts of potential distractions facing drivers, including eating, conversing with passengers, applying makeup, adjusting stereo controls, and, most notably, using a cell phone.
Maine distracted driving statistics
Distracted driving is a growing issue in Maine.
According to the Maine Bureau of Highway Safety, distracted driving is a leading cause of vehicle crashes. Each year, distracted driving results in more than 3,500 crashes, 500 injuries, and approximately 45 deaths in Maine.
"In that brief moment, you don't know what's happening,” said Sargeant Daniel Hanson of the Maine State Police Department. “When you look down, when you are focused on your phone or focused on another task, there can be a hazard approaching you on the roadway that you are not going to be able to respond to.”
Maine’s distracted driving laws
Like most states, Maine has statutes that specifically address the use of cell phones while driving.
Under Title 29-A, Sections 2119-121 of the Maine Revised Statutes, drivers are prohibited from “using, manipulating, talking into or otherwise interacting with a handheld electronic device or mobile telephone.”
Maine’s distracted driving statutes are stricter than most states because they ban both texting and talking on a cell phone. However, drivers who are older than 18 are permitted to talk on the phone if they’re using a hands-free device.
A CDC survey of high school students found that 39 percent of students who drove in the previous 30 days texted or emailed while driving on at least one of those days.
Penalties for violating Maine’s distracted driving laws
The fines for violating Maine’s distracted driving laws depend on the particular offense:
|Maine distracted driving penalties|
|Talking on the phone||Texting|
Maine’s distracted driving laws are primary enforcement laws, which means police can pull you over if they observe you even touching your phone, regardless of whether you’re violating any other laws.
Implications for personal injury cases
The fines for distracted driving are enough to deter some drivers, but drivers who are still willing to use their phones while driving should be aware of the hidden costs.
Under Maine law, a driver is negligent if they fail to use reasonable care and someone is harmed because of that failure. When a driver causes a car accident because they were distracted (e.g., they were texting and driving or applying makeup while driving), the driver is negligent and responsible for paying the damages caused by the accident.
Keep in mind that serious car accidents result in damages that often exceed car insurance limits, meaning you could be personally on the hook for a significant amount of money if you choose to use your phone and drive.
Tips to avoid distracted driving
It’s now a well-known fact that cell phones are addictive. With that in mind, here are some tips to help you avoid using your phones while driving:
- Ask your passenger to be your “designated texter.”
- Ask your passenger to be on the lookout for other drivers who may not be paying attention.
- Activate your phone’s “do not disturb” feature.
- Put your phone in the trunk, back seat, or some other place where you won’t be able to reach it until you arrive at your destination.
Hiring an attorney
When you’ve been injured by a distracted driver in Maine, you have the right to seek compensation for your losses, including medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Unfortunately, the legal process can be challenging, especially if the other driver disputes liability or the insurer refuses to pay the damages you’re owed.
An experienced personal injury attorney can help you receive the compensation you deserve. However, you shouldn’t just hire any attorney. Car accident litigation can be lengthy, and it often involves discussing sensitive information (such as your health). For these reasons, it’s important to hire a competent attorney who you are comfortable working with. The following resource can help ensure you hire the right attorney for your case:
When To Hire a Lawyer Checklist
Can you handle your own claim, or should you hire an attorney? Use this worksheet to determine when you should consider hiring a personal injury or workers' comp lawyer.
Download in PDF format