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)
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.