What should you know about the hands-free driving law?
The Maine State Police wants you to know that beginning on 9-19-2019, Title 29-A section 2121 prohibits the use of mobile telephones, handheld electronic devices and portable electronic devices while operating a motor vehicle, unless specifically exempted by law. Keep in mind that you may use limited functions of your device in hands free mode providing you are not under 18 years of age or operating on a permit or an intermediate driver’s license. Please read the frequently asked questions below to gain a better understanding the new law.
Does this include interlock devices? Interlock devices are permissible under the new law. Title 29-A section 101, 26-C, defines a “handheld electronic device” as a device that is not part of the operating equipment of the motor vehicle. The interlock device is part of the operating equipment of the motor vehicle.
Does that include a CB (citizen band radio)? CBs were specifically exempted under Title 29-A section 101, 26-C A, so you may use a CB while operating a motor vehicle, provided you safely maintain control of your vehicle while doing so. (Title 29-A section 2118).
Can you use a handheld device if it is mounted, like a GPS, or iTunes? A handheld or portable electronic device may be used if it is affixed or mounted to the vehicle and it only requires you to use a single tap, swipe or push of a button to activate or deactivate a feature. You may not enter an address into the GPS or search for songs on iTunes while driving. To perform any action that requires more than one touch of the device requires you to pull over to a safe, lawful location, halt your vehicle and then perform the task.
What if people use their cell phones for GPS? You may use your phone as a GPS, but you may not manually interact with it unless it is mounted or affixed to the vehicle. If the phone is affixed or mounted to the vehicle you may use your hand to perform a single push, swipe or tap to activate or deactivate a feature or function.
Does this include driving for a taxi service, uber, limo service or other vehicle for hire? Yes, this law applies to taxis, ubers, limos and other vehicles for hire. A mobile telephone, electronic handheld device or portable electronic device may be used if it is affixed or mounted to the vehicle and it only requires you to use a single tap, swipe or push of a button to activate or deactivate a feature or function.
If my car is equipped with a Bluetooth device and it reads my text messages out loud to me and I can reply to them via my voice is that considered hands-free? The law allows you to use your device in hands free mode, so you may use your Bluetooth to read texts to you out loud and use your voice to text feature to compose a text, provided you safety maintain control of your vehicle while doing so.
Can I place a phone call while driving? You can place a call while driving, but the phone cannot be held to your ear. You may use voice commands to make a call or if your mobile telephone is mounted or affixed to the vehicle you may use your hand to push, swipe or tap the phone to activate or deactivate a feature or function.
Can I text and drive? No. Texting while driving is illegal, even if you are stopped temporarily at a traffic light, bus stop, construction site, stop sign or any other time you are temporarily stopped in the roadway. You may use voice to text to send a message. If your phone doesn’t have that feature you must pull off the side of the roadway, find a safe place to park and then write the message.
What if I want to use my GPS? GPS can be used while driving, provided the address is entered prior to driving. If the address needs to be changed while you are driving, you must pull off the roadway, find a safe place to park and then write the message. You can also use your phone’s voice command feature.
What about drivers under the age of 18?
If someone is under the age of 18 or has an intermediate license or permit they may not operate a motor vehicle while using a mobile telephone or handheld device.
Can I answer a phone call while driving? You may answer the call as long as you use a hands-free option and don’t have to hold the phone to manipulate it. If the phone is mounted or affixed to the vehicle you may use a hand to push, tap or swipe to answer the call.
Can I use a Bluetooth or other type of earpiece to access my phone while driving? Yes, as long as you are over 18 and not operating on a permit or an intermediate driver’s license.
Can I leave my phone in my pocket or my purse or place it in my cup holder or lay it on the seat beside me and use the phone hands free? Yes, but you’re not allowed to use your hand to push, swipe or tap the phone unless it affixed or mounted to the vehicle.
Can I turn on my hands-free feature while I’m driving? Yes, you may use your hand to activate or deactivate a feature or function of a mobile telephone or handheld electronic device that is in hands-free mode and mounted or affixed to the vehicle in a location that does not interfere with the operator’s view of the road if the feature or function activated requires only a single swipe, tap or push of the operator’s hand.
Can I text or make a phone call if my car is pulled over and idling? Yes, your car can be idling as long as you are in a safe lawful location and not obstructing traffic in any way.
What if there is an emergency? In cases of emergency, drivers are permitted to call “law enforcement or other emergency services personnel.” A driver operating on a permit is not granted this exception.
What’s the penalty? Violations will be subject to no less than a $50 fine for the first offense and not less than $250 for a second or subsequent offense. The Chief Judge set the fine amount of $230.00 for a first offense and $325.00 for a second and subsequent offense.
What else should I know?
- Your phone can be mounted anywhere in the vehicle as long as it doesn’t obstruct your view of the roadway.
- A handheld controller used to operate a plow or other piece of equipment attached to the vehicle can be used, as that is part of the operating equipment of the vehicle and exempt from this law.
- We care about your safety and ask that you voluntarily put down your mobile telephone, handheld devices and other portable electronic devices and pay attention to your driving! Just Drive! This may be the only warning you get.