NH texting and driving law goes into effect

by Sara McGahan | 7/9/15 6:50pm

As of July 1, solely restraining oneself from texting while driving is not going to cut it in New Hampshire anymore. A new law banning the use of all hand-held electronic devices while driving or momentarily stopped went into effect across the state last Wednesday.

This law — which bans the use of such devices while driving as well as when stopped briefly at a stop sign or red light — will be enforced on all public roads, Hanover Police Chief Charlie Dennis said, which includes the entirety of Dartmouth’s campus.

Previously, New Hampshire had only outlawed texting while driving, but this hands-free law prevents the use of any hand-held electronic device “capable of providing voice or data communication while driving,” which includes GPS, tablets, iPods, iPads as well as cell phones, according to the New Hampshire “Driving Towards Zero” website regarding the law.

New Hampshire joined 13 other states that have already banned all hand-held devices in cars.

Safety and Security director Harry Kinne said that many of the states Dartmouth students come from have also banned the use of all hand-held devices in vehicles, including California, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York and Vermont. While this is a new law in New Hampshire, students from these states will be accustomed to the regulation, he said.

Hands-free electronic devices, such as Bluetooth, are allowed under the new regulation. In addition, emergency calls to 911 and other crisis hotlines are permitted.

Town manager Julia Griffin said that she believes this law is “long overdue.”

“Our police department is committed to enforcing the law actively,” Griffin said, adding that distracted driving is an issue Hanover police officers often cite as a regular problem.

State Police officers also seem to be committed to enforcing the law. Over Fourth of July weekend, state police troopers gave out 96 citations and 47 warnings across the state for violating this new law, the New Hampshire Union Leader reported.

The New Hampshire Department of Transportation reported that distracted driving caused 116 fatal crashes in the past four years in the state, according to “Driving Toward Zero” Hands-Free for New Hampshire website. In addition, drivers are 23 times more likely to crash while texting and three times more likely to crash while dialing a phone number.

Griffin, Dennis and New Hampshire highway safety engineer Michelle Marshall said that the law aims to keep people safe and decrease the number of distracted drivers on state roads.

Dennis said that distracted driving is both a statewide and nationwide problem, adding that he thinks that this law “will help prevent needless crashes and deaths across the state.”

In order to increase awareness across the state, the New Hampshire Department of Transportation ran radio and television advertisements, spoke with citizens, distributed flyers and posters, constructed a website explaining the law and enacted other initiatives, Marshall said.

Hanover has implemented similar initiatives to increase awareness of the hands-free law, such as distributing posters, sending web updates and updating social media, Griffin said. In addition, a large road sign was posted at the bottom of West Wheelock street as drivers entered Hanover from Norwich, which alerted and reminded drivers of the law’s implementation date, Griffin said.

The town also asked high school principals to remind students of the hands-free law, Griffin said, as individuals under the age of 18 will not be allowed to use any electronic device — even a handless device — while driving or while momentarily stopped at a stop sign or red light. Violations of this rule may result in license suspension or cancellation.

The first violation of the hands free law will result in a $100 fine, the second offense will result in a $250 fine and every subsequent offense within two years will result in a $500 fine. According to the hands-free website, penalty assessments will be added to these fines.

Advertise your student group in The Dartmouth for free!