A distracted driving bill (House Bill 1360) heading into the New Hampshire Senate this week would ban handheld use of a cellphone, GPS, iPad, or other electronic device while driving, at a stop sign, or stopped in traffic, except for emergency purposes.
The bill would still allow drivers to use electronic devices hands free. For example, drivers can talk on the phone as long as it’s through speaker phone, BlueTooth, or an on-board car phone. However, the bill bans both handheld and hand-free use of cellphones and electronic devices for drivers under the age of 18, except to make an emergency call.
According to New Hampshire’s Union Leader, the bill’s passage in the House came as a surprise because of the Legislature’s history of passing over cellphone-related distracted driving bills. Many remained skeptical that the bill would even make it past Senate Committees before hitting the Senate floor. However, strong support from law enforcement, relatives of victims of distracted drivers, auto dealers and manufacturers, cellphone companies, businesses, advocacy groups, and state agencies during a public hearing before the Senate Transportation Committee caught the attention of committee members.
The Department of Safety also informed the committee that 27% of the 116 fatal traffic crashes that occurred in New Hampshire over the past three years were distracted driving-related, making distracted driving the second cause of traffic deaths after drunk driving. Based on these statistics and strong support for a cellphone ban, the committee unanimously passed the bill. The committee also added a new provision requiring safety agencies to create and implement a campaign to educate drivers on the new law.
If passed by the Senate and signed into law, the cellphone and electronic device ban would go into effect July 1, 2015.