Distracted Driving - Issue Summary

Should you be allowed to use a cell phone while driving?

By: LFDA Editor

New Hampshire is one of 30 states with a law prohibiting texting-while-driving. Under state law (enacted in 2010), drivers caught texting are subject to a $100 fine. 

For an officer to prove a violation, the driver must consent to a check of the phone log or the officer must present a search warrant. 

Some legislators want to increase penalties for texting-while-driving, and some want to ban all cell phone use while driving.

Proponents of a tougher distracted driving law argue that it will decrease accidents.  According to the New Hampshire Safety Administration, twenty-nine percent of fatal accidents in 2010 were caused by distracted drivers.  The National Transportation Safety Board has accordinly called for a ban on all cell phone use by drivers, including wireless and hands-free devices.

Opponents contend that distracted driving laws are too difficult to enforce and point out there is already a negligent driving law on the books.

When the House Transportation Committee rejected a ban on cell phone use while driving in 2011, committee member Rep. Lisa E. Scontsas said, "The negligent driving statue already covers this type of distraction. As a committee we are going to work on this statue to be more effective. There are many distractions on the road today. We must try to make people understand that they need to be more responsible while driving." (see House Journal 30)

2014 Legislation

Rep. Sylvia Gale (D-Nashua) is the primary sponsor of two 2014 bills related to distracted driving, HB 1117 and HB 1118.  HB 117 would prohibit any cell phone use while driving, unless the phone is hands-free.  HB 1118 would prohibit any cell phone by bus and taxi drivers in particular.  Both bills include a $100 fine.

Rep. Laura Pantelakos (D-Portsmouth) is sponsoring HB 1360, a 2014 bill which expands the distracted driving statute to include "anything which is interfering with or impeding the proper operation," including GPS devices and cell phones, unless hands-free.  Drivers under eighteen would also be forbidden from using hands-free devices.



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  • If you are new to contacting your government, please visit our page on How to Take Action.

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  • Contact a government official as follows:

1. Contact members of the New Hampshire House of Representatives or the New Hampshire Senate
 
2. Give your opinion to Governor Maggie Hassan

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Are you for or against the use of cell phones while driving?  Whatever your thoughts are, we urge you to make your voice heard. See the "Learn More/Take Action" section on this page for more information.

Issue Status

State law doesn't restrict talking on cell phones while behind the wheel, but prohibits drivers of any age from texting and driving.

Rep. Sylvia Gale (D-Nashua) is the primary sponsor of two 2014 bills related to distracted driving, HB 1117 and HB 1118.  HB 117 would prohibit any cell phone use while driving, unless the phone is hands-free.  HB 1118 would prohibit any cell phone by bus and taxi drivers in particular.  Both bills include a $100 fine.

Rep. Laura Pantelakos (D-Portsmouth) is sponsoring HB 1360, a 2014 bill which expands the distracted driving statute to include "anything which is interfering with or impeding the proper operation," including GPS devices and cell phones, unless hands-free.  Drivers under eighteen would also be forbidden from using hands-free devices.

The House on March 6, 2014 voted 192-133 to pass HB 1360, which prohibits motorists from using handheld cell phone and other devices while driving. It is more restrictive for teenage drivers, banning those 17 and under from using a cellphone under any circumstances. Fines range from $100 for a first offense to $500 for a third offense.

News

March 6, 2014
WMUR: House approves ban on cellphone use by minors behind wheel
Concord Monitor: NH House passes bill to ban use of hand-held cell phones while driving
Eagle-Tribune: NH House to drivers: Put down the cell phone
Nashua Telegraph: NH House sends strong message, approving ban on cellphones while driving
NHPR: House passes bill on handheld cell phone use by drivers
Seacoast Online: Ban on cellphone use while driving passes NH House
Feb. 20, 2014
Concord Monitor: NH House passes pay equity bill, delays vote on cell phone ban
WMUR: Bill would forbid hand-held use of cellphones by drivers
Seacoast Online: NH House puts off vote on hand-held cell phone ban
Feb. 19, 2014
Eagle-Tribune: NH House considers cellphone restrictions
Concord Monitor: NH House voting on hand-held cellphone ban
Feb. 12, 2014
Concord Monitor: State Supreme Court rejects appeal in texting-while-driving case
NHPR: Supreme Court upholds texting-while-driving conviction
Jan. 15, 2014
Union Leader: Police: Texting while driving tough to prove
Union Leader: State Police back bill to crack down on distracted driving
Jan. 6, 2014
Union Leader: NH drivers, put that phone down...
Jan. 3, 2014
Nashua Telegraph: Texting, dialing while driving raises crash risk 
Dec. 31, 2013
Union Leader: After death, Amherst Fire Dept. asks people to pledge not to text and drive
Dec. 30, 2013
Concord Monitor: Lawmakers to consider cell phone use behind the wheel – again
Dec. 29, 2013
WMUR: Distracted driving seen as growing problem
Seacoast Online: NH adds new texting penalty for commercial drivers
October 16, 2013
Eagle-Tribune: NH lawmakers to revisit distracted driving
October 13, 2013
NHPR: NH high court to hear texting while driving case
Concord Monitor: NH high court gets reading-text-while-driving case
October 12, 2013
NHPR: N.H. high court to hear texting while driving case
September 29, 2013
Union Leader: Tougher cellphone restrictions sought for NH drivers
May 21, 2013

NHPR: Manchester, state police work to curb distracted driving
July 6, 2012
WMUR: Searching for ways to prevent texting while driving
J
anuary 24, 2012
Union Leader: Somersworth woman charged with distracted driving after hitting three teens
December 15, 2011

Union Leader: Feds out of touch with cell phone ban, NH says
October 17, 2011
Union Leader: Merrimack police seek grant to target distracted drivers