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 accordingly 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. Laura Pantelakos (D-Portsmouth) sponsored HB 1360, a 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 18 would also be forbidden from using hands-free devices.

HB 1360 passed the House (192-133) and received voice vote passage in the Senate. The voice vote sends the bill back to the House to consider an amendment to require the state to educate the public about the ban. The amended language was accepted by both the House and Senate and the bill was being considered by Gov. Hassan.

The language expands cellphone use prohibition to include: "reading, composing, viewing, or posting any electronic message; or initiating, receiving, or conducting a conversation; or initiating a command or request to access the Internet; or inputting information into a global positioning system or navigation device; or manually typing data into any other portable electronic device." Hands-free use of a smartphone is allowed.

The law provides for a $100 first offense fine.

The law would go into effect July 1, 2015 after a year-long public education period.

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.




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If you are interested in distracted driving laws in NH and want to take action here are some choices:

  • 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

The 2014 Legislature took up measures to stiffen the regulation and penalties for using a cellphone while driving. See details in the Issue Summary.

News

June 16, 2014
Seacoast Online: Hand-held phone use in car could soon cost $100
April 17, 2014

Concord Monitor: Senate approves hand-held cell phone ban
April 12, 2014
Union Leader: Distracted Driving bill getting favorable looks
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