Maine governor axes handheld cell phone law

Gov. Paul LePage says Maine doesn’t need more “social engineering” — and has vetoed the Legislature’s handheld cell phone ban.

governor of MaineThe Republican governor said legislators and police should instead focus on the state’s existing laws regarding texting & driving and distracted driving.

“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,” LePage, left, said in announcing the veto on a morning talk-radio show.

State Sen. Bill Diamond’s LD 1089 still could have become law, but the House’s vote of Aug. 2 did not reach the two-thirds majority needed for an override. The Senate did vote to override, but the bill is now dead. (Article updated Aug. 3.)

LePage had previously suggested he would work with lawmakers on a ban on handheld cell phone use, but he told the WVOM radio audience that other distractions such as putting on makeup and eating food deserved consideration. He said technology would be the solution for the problem of drivers using cell phones.

The governor also proposed another route to curing distracted driving: Pass a law that “Every driver has to have both hands on the wheel at all times.”

Maine’s general distracted driving law penalizes motorists who fail to have their vehicles under control due to wide range of behaviors. Enforcement is tied to other traffic offenses or accidents.

The governor reportedly is considering a run for U.S. Senate in 2018.

LePage joins a small group of governors who vetoed successful distracted driving measures, including Rick Perry of Texas (texting bill) and Jerry Brown of California (increased fines).

Maine finds itself a lone holdout in the region. Rhode Island this month joined neighboring states Connecticut, Vermont and New Hampshire in adopting a handheld cell phone law. In Massachusetts, a handheld cell phone bill cleared the Senate at the end of June.

> Read more about Maine distracted driving laws.

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