Maine State Police answer questions about new cellphone law

Starting Sept. 19, drivers are prohibited from using, manipulating or holding mobile phones, hand-held electronic devices or portable electronic devices while operating a motor vehicle, unless specifically exempted by law. There will be no "warning" period from the police to allow motorists to get used to the new law. Expect swift and widespread enforcement with few exceptions, starting on the day the law takes effect.

You cannot hold your phone in your hand while you drive, even if you are not making a call, texting or using the phone. Drivers are not permitted to manipulate a phone or any other electronic device while driving. If you're behind the wheel, the car is moving, and the phone is in your hand, you're breaking the law. First-time offenders face a $50 fine. Subsequent offenses are $250.

Phones must be held securely in a cradle or otherwise attached to the vehicle in some way. Once affixed to the dash or another part of the car, drivers are allowed a single touch, tap or swipe to activate a hands-free mode or hands-free feature. A phone can be mounted anywhere in the vehicle that doesn't obstruct your view of the road.

The only interaction drivers are permitted is a single touch, tap or swipe, such as answering a call or activating a hands-free mode, such as Siri or by using Android voice commands. Drivers must first pull over to a safe location and stop the vehicle before having any further interaction with the device. Your car can be idling while using your phone as long as you are in a safe, lawful location and not obstructing traffic in any way.

There are further restrictions for people without a full license. Under separate Maine laws, anyone under 18 with an intermediate license is still prohibited from using a cellphone or other electronic device while driving. Anyone with a learner's permit is also prohibited from using cellphones or electronic devices.

Under the new law, drivers are permitted to call "law enforcement or other emergency services personnel." A driver operating on a permit is not granted this exception.

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. Even then, you may only perform a single push, swipe or tap to activate or deactivate a hands-free feature or function. When in doubt, enter the address before you begin driving, or pull over to a safe location to change or enter a new address.

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.

You cannot hold your phone and talk into the microphone to compose a text message If the phone is in your hand and you're driving, you're breaking the law.

Interlock devices and snowplow controls are considered part of the operating equipment of the vehicle and are exempt from this law. CB radios are also exempt under a separate statute, provided you safely maintain control of the motor vehicle while using them.

You cannot use your phone when you're stopped at a red light or stuck in traffic. If you're on the road and behind the wheel, the rules still apply, whether the car is moving or not.

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 road. You may use voice-to-text to send a message, but only while also complying with the hands-free law. If your phone doesn't have that feature, you must pull off the side of the road, find a safe place to park and then write the message.