Should you be allowed to use a cell phone while driving?
By: LFDA Editor
Starting July 1, 2015, New Hampshire will ban hand-held cellphone use while driving.
The new law - passed in the 2014 Legislative Session and subsequently signed into law by Gov. Hassan - includes fines of $100 for the first offense, $250 for a second offense, and $500 for subsequent offenses within 24-months.
The law permits use of hands-free phones, devices built into the vehicle and two-way radios. It bans all cellphone use by drivers under 18.
There are some exceptions:
- The law applies while drivers are stopped temporarily (stop signs, red lights, etc), but not if they have pulled over off the road.
- Drivers can answer the phone, but not hold it to the ear.
- Typing emails, messages or the programming of GPS systems is not permitted.
- Emergency calls are permitted for all drivers.
Proponents of strict distracted driving laws believe it will decrease accidents. According to the New Hampshire Safety Administration, 29 percent of fatal accidents in 2010 were caused by distracted drivers. The National Transportation Safety Board recommended a ban on all cell phone use by drivers,
Opponents contend that distracted driving laws are too difficult to enforce and point out there is already a negligent driving law on the books.
Existing state law bans typing/sending text messages while driving but does not prohibit reading text messages, surfing the Internet, dialing cellphones or programming GPS devices while driving.
Rep. Jim Belanger is the primary sponsor of HB 103, a 2015 bill that requires the email and texting capabilities on a phone or tablet be disabled if the device is moving more than 5 miles per hour. Two New England states would need to pass similar laws before HB 103 took effect.
Rep. Herbert Richardson is the primary sponsor of HB 241, a 2015 bill that prohibits a driver from holding an animal in his or her lap while driving.
Rep. Dan McGuire is the primary sponsor of HB 426, a 2015 bill that limits the prohibition on using a cell phone while driving to drivers under age 18.
HB 1360 - sponsored by Rep. Laura Pantelakos (D-Portsmouth) - passed the House (192-133) and received voice vote passage in the Senate. The bill was amended to include the public education provision. It was signed into law by Gov. Hasson on July 25, 2014.
Two other bills sponsored by Rep. Sylvia Gale (D-Nashua) failed in the House. HB 1117 would have prohibited any cell phone use while driving, unless the phone is hands-free, while HB 1118 would have prohibited any cell phone by bus and taxi drivers in particular. Both bills were deemed Inexpedient to legislate.