‘Distracted driving’ hands-free cell phone law kicks in July 1

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WATCH: Marilyn Bachman of Amherst, on her husband’s death due to a distracted driver.

MANCHESTER, NH — New Hampshire’s Hands Free Law (HB 1360) kicks in Wednesday July 1, making it illegal to use a handheld device while driving. You can read the bill here.

In plain language, this means anyone driving in New Hampshire, whether you live here or are just passing through, needs to be aware of the law, and consequences, especially for those out and about over the July Fourth holiday:

  • No use of hand-held electronic devices capable of providing voice or data communication while driving or temporarily halted in traffic for a stop sign or traffic signal or other momentary delays
  • This includes cell phones, GPS, tablets, iPods, iPads or other devices that require data entry
  • Emergency calls to 911 or other public safety agencies will be allowed
  • Bluetooth or other hands-free electronic devices will be allowed
  • One hand non-cellular 2-way radio use will be allowed
  • Teen drivers under the age of 18 will not be allowed to use any electronic devices (hand-held or not) except to report an emergency. Anyone violating this will be subject to penalties and license suspension or revocation.
  • If your vehicle is not equipped with Bluetooth functionality, auto service centers can install after-market systems or over the ear devices can be purchased at retailers such as Staples, Best Buy or your cell phone carrier.
Why is the NH Law Important?

A growing number of states around the country have enacted “distracted driving” legislation to address the number of accidents caused by someone taking their eyes off the road due to messaging with a hand-held device, or being engaged in a phone conversation while driving. You can review the state-by-state laws here.

During a news conference last week, NH State Police Col. Robert Quinn cited 124 crashes over the past four years caused by distracted driving.

“Distracted driving rivals impaired driving as a top public safety risk on our roadways and it is killing people,” Quinn said.

Another news conference will be held June 3o to remind motorists that state police will have “high visibility” patrols over the July 4th weekend on I-93, I-495 in Massachusetts to the Hooksett tolls, and I-95 from Massachusetts through NH and Maine, to watch for distracted, aggressive and impaired drivers, and issue tickets accordingly, or make arrests.

Driving to Zero (nhdrz.com) a public/private partnership from the NH Department of Transportation, has created an interactive map that details the number of fatal crashes, to date, which is a sobering reminder that doing everything possible to be safe while driving can be a life or death decision.

Some key statistics:

  • During the past four years, 116 fatal crashes in New Hampshire were caused by distraction
  • The increasing use of electronic devices is fast becoming the primary distraction
  • While texting, a driver is 23 times more likely to crash
  • Sending or receiving a text distracts the driver for almost 5 seconds
  • At 50 miles per hour, we travel longer than the length of a football field during that 5 seconds
  • Even dialing a phone number increases the risk of crashing by 3 times

Screenshot 2015-06-28 at 10.00.30 AMFor those of you who expect you may have trouble abiding by the new law, or who have teenagers who may be tempted to continue to text and drive, consider clicking  here to take the Driving Toward Zero pledge — making a tangible commitment sometimes helps our resolve.


 Penalties for Violations

If you’re wondering how the law will be enforced, police say they will be vigilant. You can expect some leniency in the first few weeks, as with any new law, as police will likely warn first-time offenders by informing them of the new law.

But this change in NH law has been well publicized. The monetary penalties are listed below:

  • 1st 0ffense: $100
  • 2nd offense: $250
  • 3rd offense within 2 years: $500

Hands-free devices are available most anywhere electronics are sold, including BestBuy, Wal-Mart, Target and Amazon.com.


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About Carol Robidoux 5278 Articles
Journalist and editor of ManchesterInkLink.com, a hyperlocal news and information site for Manchester, NH.