Distracted Driving Laws
New Hampshire has statutes banning 'reckless' or 'negligent' driving, regardless of cause. In addition, starting July 1, 2015, New Hampshire specifically banned hand-held cellphone use while driving, regardless of whether a driver is seen to drive recklessly. This includes:
- Making hand-held phone calls;
- Any texting or typing emails;
- Programming GPS systems.
The law applies even when a driver is stopped temporarily, such as at a stop sign or a red light. It calls for fines of $100 for the first offense, $250 for a second offense, and $500 for subsequent offenses within 24-months.
Adult drivers in New Hampshire are allowed to interact with phones using hands-free devices such as a Bluetooth speaker, devices built into the vehicle and two-way radios. However, the law does ban all cellphone use—hands free or not—by drivers under 18.
There are some exceptions:
- Drivers can use a phone if they are pulled over off the road.
- Drivers can answer the phone through a speaker or Bluetooth connection, but not pick it up and hold it to their ear.
- Emergency calls are permitted for all drivers at any time.
There have been attempts in recent years to add other exceptions, such as programming a GPS, but so far these have failed to pass the Legislature.
Primary vs. secondary offenses
New Hampshire law makes using a hand-held mobile device while driving a primary offense. That means a driver can be pulled over and ticketed for violating the law, even if they haven't committed any other offense.
Some officials have argued the law should be changed to make it instead a secondary offense. This would mean a New Hampshire driver could only be ticketed for hand-held phone use if they were first pulled over for another violation, such as speeding. There have been attempts to make this change in the Legislature in recent years, but so far they have all failed.
Other types of distractions
In the past, legislators have considered adding other specific behaviors to the state's distracted driving laws, such as holding an animal on your lap while driving. So far, none of these have passed.
"New Hampshire was right to ban hand-held cell phone use while driving."
- Proponents of strict distracted driving laws argue it decreases accidents. According to the NHTSA, 15 percent of fatal accidents in 2017 were caused by distracted drivers. This is down from 29 percent in 2010, before the handheld device ban was passed.
"New Hampshire should not ban hand-held cell phone use while driving."
- Laws prohibiting the use of hand-held mobile devices are too difficult to enforce.
- There is already a general distracted driving law on the books, which could be applied if a driver is seen to be driving dangerously while using a phone.