Repeals the prohibition on texting while driving. The House amended the bill to instead revise the fines for using a mobile electronic device while driving. For example, this bill increases the fine from $100 to $250 for the first offense. The House amendment also allows a ten-day license suspension after the second offense, and requires a ten-day license suspension after subsequent offenses. The Senate removed the fine increases, instead allowing a fifteen-day license suspension after a second offense and requiring a thirty-day license suspension after subsequent offenses.
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.
PROS & CONS
"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.
Permits using a mobile electronic device while stopped by a traffic control device, such as a red light.
Repeals prohibitions on electronic device usage while driving.
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.
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.
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.
Exempts GPS devices from the prohibition on the use of mobile electronic devices while driving.
Requires the driver's license exam to include questions regarding distracted driving, driving under the influence, and driving during poor weather conditions.
Modifies the distracted driving law to allow some use of GPS devices.
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.
Prohibits a driver from holding an animal in his or her lap while driving.
Limits the prohibition on using a cell phone while driving so the law only applies to drivers under age 18.
Forbids cell phone use while driving, unless hands-free.
Prohibits any cell phone use while driving, unless the phone is hands-free.
Prohibits any cell phone use by bus and taxi drivers.
Prohibits texting while driving.
Was NH right to ban hand-held cell phone use while driving?
In a case study of just how much the intent of a bill can change when it is amended, the House Transportation Committee changed a bill from Rep. James Spillane, originally intended to repeal the state's ban on texting while driving, to instead impose stricter penalties for doing so. The House passed the amended bill.
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