From 2017 to 2021, Maine had 166,842 car accidents, with 38,889 (or 23.31% of all accidents) resulting in injuries and 719 (or 0.43%) resulting in fatalities. Cumberland, York, Penobscot, and Kennebec counties had the highest rates of car accidents, accounting for 83,058 of the state's total five-year figure. According to the same Maine Department of Transportation data, 6,556 crashes involved drunk or drugged drivers, while 4,147 involved fatigued car operators. Researchers from the University of Maine discovered that the prevalence of speeding on Maine's rural roadways has increased since the COVID-19 pandemic began. They also found that speeding is involved in the majority of crashes.
Maine's legislators and authorities have enacted the following laws and regulations, as well as minimum insurance requirements and personal injury liability guidelines, to safeguard Maine car owners, vehicle accident victims, and car wreck plaintiffs.
Maine Seat Belt and Child Passenger Safety Laws
Adult car occupants, including drivers and passengers, are required by state laws to wear seat belts while traveling to prevent serious and fatal injuries when a car accident occurs. Drivers must also ensure children under 18 are properly restrained inside the car using seat belts or lap belts; rear-facing child restraint car seats; booster seats; or Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH) systems that follow Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. Violating the laws will result in a fine, which ranges from $50 to $250, depending on the level of offense.
Primary laws in states like Maine allow law enforcement officers to pull drivers over just for failing to buckle up. Fortunately, these laws have achieved higher seat belt use rates, thus protecting more lives on the road. NHTSA’s National Occupant Protection Use Survey (NOPUS) found that Maine recorded a 91.8% seat belt use rate in 2021.
Distracted Driving, Text Messaging, and Hands-Free Driving Laws
The government has enacted laws to prevent car drivers from taking their hands off the steering wheel and engaging in activities that are unnecessary to vehicle operation. Maine is among the 24 states that prohibit handheld phone use while driving. State laws ban car operators from being distracted by manual, visual, or cognitive distractions, which include using handheld devices to send text messages or receive calls, using the phone’s navigation app, looking outside, eating, and being angry.
Data shows handheld mobile phones contributed to 3.34% of distracted driving accidents in Maine in 2022. According to the Insurance Information Institute, Maine averages 13 annual fatalities per 100,000 people due to distracted driving.
Maine's hands-free laws prohibit car drivers from texting while temporarily halted at a stop sign, traffic light, or a construction site on a public way. They can only send messages through their phones, make phone calls, or change addresses on their GPS devices when they pull their vehicle over to the side of a public way and have stopped in a location where the car can safely remain stationary. The only exceptions to the rule include operating a phone during emergencies and if it is within the scope of a person’s employment.
Violators may receive fines ranging from $250 to $500 and a driver's license suspension ranging from 30 to 90 days, depending on the severity of violations or the number of repeat offenses. Drivers may also get a “driving to endanger'' conviction if they are guilty of driving and texting. This ruling can result in a maximum fine of $1,000, up to six months of imprisonment, and 30 to 180 days of license suspension. If a car accident results in death, the at-fault driver may face vehicular homicide charges.
Impaired Driving, Operating Under the Influence, and Open Container Laws
Being intoxicated with alcohol or drugs while driving is prohibited in Maine, as this impairs a driver's perception, judgment, concentration, emotional control, and alertness. Impaired drivers may drive too fast or too slow, disregard traffic signals, make frequent lane changes, and fail to remain in the center of the lane. MaineDOT records show that 1,322 of the 33,914 car accidents in the state in 2022 involved drivers under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The state government has passed one of the country's strictest OUI laws to discourage such behavior.
In Maine, the legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit is below .08%. Car operators caught driving past the limit may face OUI convictions. Police officers in the state are also trained to detect the presence of drugs other than alcohol in impaired drivers. The Drug Evaluation and Classification Program sets guidelines for the evidence needed to prosecute drivers for operating under the influence.
Zero Tolerance Law for Minors
Maine has a special Zero Tolerance Law for car operators under 21. If they are found driving or attempting to operate a motor vehicle with any measurable amount of alcohol in their system, they will lose their license for a year. If they refuse a test, they will lose their license for at least 18 months. In addition, if the drivers have passengers under 21, they will get an additional 180-day suspension. They can also be prosecuted for OUI if they are found to have a BAC of .08% or higher in their system. Convictions can also result in hefty fines, lengthy license suspensions, imprisonment, and the completion of alcohol and drug education, evaluation, and treatment programs.
Impaired Driving Penalties in Maine
The first OUI offense in Maine is considered a Class D misdemeanor, with the violator being issued a $500 fine and a 150-day driver's license suspension. The “look back” period (for counting repeat drunk driving offenses) in the state is 10 years. Any OUI charge incurred over a decade in any state counts toward a violator's first, second, or third OUI offense. Meanwhile, a conviction for vehicular homicide with alcohol involved can result in up to 30 years imprisonment and the permanent loss of a driver's license. Below is a table that shows the minimum court-imposed penalties for operating under the influence.
1st (no aggravating factors)
1st (with aggravating factors)*
4th or more
6 months and 20 days
*Aggravating factors include: a.) a BAC of.15% or higher; b.) traveling 30 mph or more over the speed limit; c.) having a passenger under 21; or d.) trying to elude a law enforcement officer.
**Refusal to be tested results in a loss of license for at least 275 days.
***A second conviction within a decade bans the offender from obtaining a work-restricted license or registering a car.
Open Container Law
Drivers are considered in violation of the state's open container law if:
They are carrying an open or unsealed container of alcohol, may it be a bottle, can, or other receptacles, in their automobile. The rule also applies to instances where the container's seal is broken or if its contents are partially removed.
The alcoholic beverage is located in the passenger area.
The car operator is driving on a public road.
Violators of the law will be fined between $25 and $500. Meanwhile, underage offenders will receive up to a $500 fine and have their driving privileges suspended for 30 days to one year.
Maine Fatigued Driving Law
Maine is one of the states that have made drowsy driving illegal. The legislation defines "operating while fatigued" as driving a motor vehicle after being awake for 24 consecutive hours, having been without sleep for 24 hours straight, and in the state of sleep, or with driving ability or alertness so degraded by fatigue that the driver is dangerous behind the wheel.
A car operator who drives while fatigued could be nabbed for reckless driving if they were not alert enough to watch for pedestrians or other cars and caused an accident resulting in injury or death; if their drowsiness caused them to disobey traffic laws; or if their fatigued state caused their vehicle to accelerate past the speed limit.
Since sleepiness severely impairs a person's driving ability, which could result in serious or fatal car crashes, the state has imposed strict penalties for violating the law. Offenders found to be fatigued and excessively speeding, who have a passenger 21 years of age or younger, or who have tried to elude law enforcement may receive a minimum of a $500 fine, a 150-day driver's license suspension, and a 48-hour prison sentence. The penalties increase depending on whether the violator becomes a repeat offender.
Basic Speeding Laws and Absolute Speed Limits
In Maine, speed is cited as a factor in an average of 4,600 crashes annually. Legislators have passed basic speeding laws and absolute speed limits to reduce the rates of road injuries and fatalities due to overspeeding. Basic speeding law requires car drivers to drive at a "careful and prudent speed not greater than is reasonable and proper, having due regard to the traffic, surface, and width of the way, and of other conditions then existing." This means drivers must reduce speed accordingly if there are nearby cyclists or pedestrians, poor road conditions, or bad weather. Maine's absolute speed limits are:
15 mph in school zones
25 mph in residential and business districts
45 miles per hour on all public ways
55 mph on divided roads
55 mph on undivided roads
55 mph on urban highways
75 mph on rural highways
Penalties for Exceeding Speed Limits
Violating Maine's basic speeding law will result in a $134 fine. The following penalties apply for exceeding the state's absolute speed limits:
Miles Per Hour (mph) Over the Speed Limit
1 to 9
10 to 14
15 to 19
20 to 24
25 to 29
30 or more (class E crime)
Maximum of $1,000
Up to 6 months in jail
At least 30 days of driver's license suspension
Drivers who drive recklessly due to overspeeding could receive a "driving to endanger" conviction as they can potentially harm people and properties. If the traffic violation results in a fatality, the at-fault driver could face vehicular homicide charges.
Maine Minimum Auto Insurance Requirements
Maine requires car owners and operators to carry at least the minimum amount of insurance. They cannot register their vehicles without proof that they own an auto insurance policy.
Liability Insurance Coverage
This covers bodily harm and property damage caused by a collision for which the policyholder is at fault. State laws require a minimum of $50,000 per person or $100,000 per accident for bodily injury and $25,000 for property damage. Car owners who buy a combined single limit of $125,000 can satisfy the legal requirement.
Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist (UM) Coverage
The minimum uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM) coverage required by law is $50,000 per person or $100,000 per accident. It also requires car owners to equalize their UM limit with their liability limit if it is greater than the minimum, unless they expressly reject the higher UM limit in writing. This coverage protects drivers and passengers if the at-fault driver does not have insurance or if the limits of the other driver are less than the victim's UM limit.
Medical Payments (MedPay)
Maine mandates a minimum of $2,000 in medical payments per person to cover hospital expenses incurred by the policyholder and their passengers. MedPay limits of $5,000, $10,000, $25,000, or more are also available to car owners.
Optional Auto Insurance Coverage
Car owners can purchase extra coverage to add further protection. Here are some examples of the options they can sign up for:
This is used to repair damage caused by a collision with another car or fixed object (other than animals).
This covers non-collision damage to a person's vehicle, but it also covers animal collisions.
If a car operator experiences a breakdown on the road, this coverage can cover costs for towing, flat tire repairs, and even overnight stays in some cases.
Rental Car Reimbursement
If a car owner's vehicle needs to be repaired after an accident, this coverage could help pay for a rental car until it is repaired.
Loan/Lease Payoff (Gap Insurance)
This covers the monetary "gap" between the value an insurance company will pay if the car is totaled and the amount a driver may owe to a lender or dealership.
Penalties for Driving Without Insurance in Maine
If a driver is unable to show law enforcement officers proof of their auto insurance after a car accident or a traffic stop, they are considered to be driving without insurance and may face a fine of $100 to $500, as well as the suspension of their driver's license and vehicle registration.
Maine Is an At-Fault State for Insurance Claims
A fault-based system is observed in Maine when it comes to financial responsibility for losses resulting from a car collision, including injuries, lost earnings, and property damage. This means that the person who caused the accident is also liable for any injuries sustained as a result of it. People who have been injured or who have sustained property damage in an accident can file a claim with their own insurance company, a third-party claim directly with the at-fault driver's insurance company, or a personal injury lawsuit in civil court against the at-fault driver. The car accident police report, as well as accident evidence, will assist the police and insurance providers in determining who is at fault.
Maine Follows the Modified Comparative Negligence System for Car Accident Lawsuits
Maine follows a modified comparative fault standard. Car accident plaintiffs may recover damages under this system as long as they are not found to be equally or more at fault than the defendant. Under the law, for example, a party who suffered $20,000 in damages but was 80% at fault would receive nothing, whereas a party who suffered $20,000 in damages but was only 20% at fault would receive $16,000. Claimants can seek the assistance of car accident lawyers to maximize their compensation.
Statute of Limitations for Car Accident Lawsuits
Personal injury and property damage claims resulting from a car accident in Maine have a six-year statute of limitations. Meanwhile, the family or personal representative of a person killed in a car accident can file a wrongful death lawsuit against the at-fault party in the state's court system no later than two years after the victim's death.
Average Settlements for Maine Car Accident Lawsuits
Car crash victims and plaintiffs can seek economic and non-economic damages from the parties at fault. There is no set settlement amount for car accidents in Maine because each case is unique in terms of injuries and damages sustained. However, Maine limits wrongful death claims to $250,000 in punitive damages and $500,000 in compensatory damages.
Legal Resources for Maine Car Accident Victims
This is a Maine State Bar Association-supported legal aid organization whose volunteer lawyers provide pro bono legal advice, information, and representation to low-income Maine residents who cannot afford to pay attorneys to assist them with civil legal issues. The organization's lawyers help clients, including car accident victims with minor property damages of less than $6,000, navigate their small claims cases.
An online database by the Maine State Police where car accident victims or any authorized individuals can search and request crash reports. People have the option to request one or more copies if the reports match their search criteria, with a credit card payment of $10.00 per report or a subscription to InforME. The report(s) are sent via email. Reports from pre-2003 accidents may not be in the database. Individuals must submit a request to the Maine State Police Traffic Division for a manual search. Individuals involved in car accidents can also read answers to frequently asked questions here.
This online resource allows Maine residents involved in car accidents to find more information about the steps they need to take, from reporting the accident to law enforcement to obtaining a copy of the traffic crash report. This FAQ also provides details about the ideal time to report the accident, reporting requirements, penalties for not reporting the collision, and fees for the crash reports.
Read responses to the most frequently asked questions about the auto insurance requirements in Maine. For additional information about the state's regulations on owning a car insurance policy, click here. The Bureau of Insurance advises policyholders to discuss their coverage questions with their insurance agent or representative.
Find answers to some of the questions about auto claims on the website of the Maine Bureau of Insurance. The section includes an inquiry about whether the bureau can or cannot help if a car owner was in an accident due to somebody else's negligence, but their insurance company will not pay for some or any of their damages.
Get help from the Maine Bureau of Insurance in filing a complaint or dispute against a client's insurance provider or agent. A policyholder can access the insurance complaint form for property and casualty disputes here.
Maine has traffic laws in place to reduce the state's crash rate. Car owners and drivers should download this handbook released by the Secretary of State to gain access to an array of information ranging from obtaining a driver's license and license penalties to road safety regulations. The manual also includes reminders for driving in hazardous conditions, advice for vehicle problems, and wildlife safety tips.
Every traffic violation in Maine has corresponding driver's license demerit points, and getting too many points will result in consequences, including suspension or revocation of the license. Check out the list to get a glimpse of the number of points for various violations. Individuals who consider contesting a traffic ticket must visit the Judicial Branch Violations Bureau website to learn more about the process.
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