Disclaimer - By publishing this information on this Web site, the Boston, Massachusetts law firm of Altman & Altman LLP is not claiming to represent any clients or cases mentioned here. The content provided is designed to inform readers and is not intended as legal advice.

Putting Down Your Phone: Distracted Driving Laws in effect in N.H.

As of Wednesday, New Hampshire law makers have placed a new law in effect that prohibits drivers from using any hand-held devices. This new “hands-free” regulation has been created in hopes of reducing distraction related crashes. Reportedly there have been 116 fatal crashes over the past four years that can be directly attributed to people driving while distracted.

Have you ever noticed how long it takes you to send a text? Or how frequently your eyes are taken off the road while you change the song on your iPod? New Hampshire law enforcement officials have provided alarming statistics to highlight just how dangerous distracted driving can be. Dialing a phone number while driving increases your risk of getting into an accident by 3 times.  If you are texting while you are driving, you are 23 times more likely to crash your vehicle. Even if you are simply reading a text, you are still taking your eyes off the road for a period of 5 seconds or longer. This may seem like an insignificant amount of time on the grand scheme of things, but in terms of safe driving, 5 seconds could be the difference between life and death.

This new law encompasses restrictions on a variety of hand-held devices which include cell phones, GPS units, tablets, laptops, and iPods or other listening devices. It also prohibits drivers under the age of 18 from using any of these devices at all—hands free or otherwise, unless it is in the event of an emergency. If these devices are being used in a hands-free manner, i.e. using Bluetooth, law enforcement officials say that only then will these actions be allowed.

They go on to emphasize that these devices may not be used in a hand-held manner even if you are sitting in traffic or at a red light. Any time you use one of these devices while operating a vehicle needs to be in a hands-free way. Usage of a one handed two-way radio is still allowed—and they also want to highlight that you may use your cellular device to contact 911 or other emergency numbers in the event of an accident.

There will be a strict enforcement of these laws taking place immediately. The fines for being caught using a hand-held device will be $100 for the first offense, $250 for the second offense, and $500 for subsequent offenses over the course of a 24-month period.

When you are driving, a “hands on the wheel, eyes on the road” approach is always the best method for avoiding accidents. Even if you do not live in New Hampshire, these initiatives should become part of your own routine regardless. Reducing the risk of tragedies starts with a collective conscious decision to practice safer driving habits. Putting down your phone and placing all of your attention to your surroundings is an almost guaranteed way to be sure that you are not placing yourself or others at risk.