What Employers Should Know About Maine’s New Texting Law
New Law Prohibits Texting While Driving
On June 3rd, the Governor signed into law LD 736, entitled “An Act to Prohibit Texting While Driving”. The law prohibits the operation of a motor vehicle while engaging in text messaging. “Text messaging” means “reading or manually composing electronic communications, including text messages, instant messages and e-mails, using a portable electronic device.” It does not include using a global positioning or navigation system. Violation of the law is a traffic infraction that can result in a fine of not less than $100. The law goes into effect 90 days after the legislature adjourns. This law is in some ways an extension of the “distracted driving” law that took effect in September 2009 which penalizes drivers who fail to have their vehicles under control due to wide range of behaviors (but which did not specifically address texting).
Employers whose employees operate business-owned vehicles or their own vehicles on business should incorporate the prohibitions of this law into their policies and amend handbooks accordingly. Employers should also consider training employees and supervisors about expectations for employee use of electronic devices and their role in enforcing those policies. For instance, supervisors should be cautioned against disciplining or reprimanding an employee for failing to respond to a text message or cell phone call immediately if the employee is traveling and doing so would violate the new law or established policies.
The text of the new law can be found at www.mainelegislature.org/legis/bills/bills_125th/billtexts/SPO22801.asp.