PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- With schools back in session across Maine, transportation officials and law enforcement are reminding drivers about the dangers of distracted driving and new laws on the books that enforce stiffer penalties and restrictions.
The Bureau of Highway Safety says motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for people in Maine between the ages of 5 and 34 over the last five years, and it's a statistic many officials are concerned about.
AAA officially launched its "Schools Open, Drive Carefully," campaign at Portland High School Thursday morning. The idea behind the program is to raise awareness and educate young drivers and families about laws that are on the books.
New laws took affect last week that increase restrictions on young, intermediate drivers who are caught with traffic violations, and the fine was raised to $250 for texting while driving.
Some students say a big part of the responsibility falls on them to make sure they are driving safely along with their peers.
"A lot of teens are cocky on the road. We think we can text and play our music and not worry about what's on the road. But I think that we should all raise our level of awareness among teens and realize you have an obligation on the road to keep everyone safe."
AAA officials say they urge people to use caution at all times on roadways, but particularly now during the hours before and after school when many more pedestrians and bicyclists are out on the streets.