Distracted Driving Laws

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, in 2011.

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.

PROS & CONS

"For" Position

"Against" Position

LEGISLATIVE HISTORY

In Committee

Limits enforcement of the prohibition on the use of mobile electronic devices while driving to a secondary action when another offense is cited or charged.

Killed in the House

Limits enforcement of the prohibition on the use of mobile electronic devices while driving to a secondary action when another offense is cited or charged or when a driver is involved in an accident.

In Committee

Only allows law enforcement officers to enforce the prohibition on the use of mobile elctronic devices while driving if a law enforcement officer sees the driver of a motor vehicle with a device against his or her ear or holding a device in his or her hand and operating the device.

In Committee

Exempts GPS devices from the prohibition on the use of mobile electronic devices while driving.

Passed Senate

Requires the driver's license exam to include questions regarding distracted driving, driving under the influence, and driving during poor weather conditions.

In Committee

Modifies the distracted driving law to allow some use of GPS devices.

Killed in the House

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.

Tabled in the House

Prohibits a driver from holding an animal in his or her lap while driving

Killed in the House

Limits the prohibition on using a cell phone while driving so the law only applies to drivers under age 18

Signed by Governor

Forbidding cell phone use while driving, unless hands-free

Killed in the House

Prohibiting any cell phone use while driving, unless the phone is hands-free

Killed in the House

Prohibiting any cell phone use by bus and taxi drivers

Signed by Governor

Prohibiting texting while driving

Was NH right to ban hand-held cell phone use while driving?

FOR
REPRESENTATIVES

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UNDECIDED
REPRESENTATIVES

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AGAINST
REPRESENTATIVES

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Issue Status

Two bills have been submitted for the 2016 Legislative session:

HB 1157 requires an officer to see "the driver of a motor vehicle with a device against his or her ear or holding a device in his or her hand and operating the device."

HB 1158 exempts global positioning systems (GPS) or navigation device from the existing law.

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