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State House Memo: Time to restrict cell phones while driving

The Senate Transportation Committee is now considering House Bill 1360, legislation that would restrict the use of cell phones and other electronic communication devices while driving in New Hampshire.

This bill, which passed the House by a vote of 192-133, is the result of extensive study and deliberation by House Transportation Committee members who worked hard to bring forward a measure that would curb the unsafe behavior of way too many drivers in our state.

HB 1360 as amended was the product of three bills initially introduced to address the desire of many New Hampshire voters to restrict the use of hand-held cell phones and other such devices while driving. As prime sponsors of two of these three bills, we were responding directly to constituent concerns that too many people are driving inattentively while engaged in cell phone, text and other forms of electronic communication while navigating their 3,000-plus pound vehicles on our streets and highways.

Every day we can see drivers using hand-held devices, virtually oblivious to their surroundings while moving between and among others cars, trucks and motorcycles traveling 65 miles per hour or more.

The work of the House Transportation Committee to craft a law with the greatest promise for enforceability was greatly enhanced by testimony and input from a large number of highway safety experts and telecommunications specialists who have all come together in support of this bill. While New Hampshire has a “texting while driving” prohibition, enforcement is virtually nonexistent.

In fact, of more than 100,000 traffic citations issued by the state police last year, fewer than 16 were for texting while driving, according to Lt. Matthew Shapiro of the Highway Safety Division of the state police.

Typically, this offense can be confirmed only following a motor vehicle crash, of which several in past months have resulted in fatalities due to the motor vehicle operator’s inattention. This was sadly the case last Dec. 23 when John Bachman of Amherst, a dedicated public servant and well-respected friend and neighbor, was killed by an inattentive driver who was texting while driving; Bachman was simply in front of his own home retrieving the day’s mail.

HB 1360 makes clear and logical sense to us and to many others that drivers should at all times be focused on the road ahead of them and that their full attention should be on their immediate surroundings, to assure safe passage for not only themselves and their passengers, but also for their fellow travelers.

We encourage the Senate Transportation Committee to recommend that the full Senate pass HB 1360 and urge voters throughout the state to contact their senators in support of this common-sense bill that will enhance the safety of all who travel on New Hampshire roads, streets and highways.

(State Reps. Sylvia Gale and Jan Schmidt are Democrats from Nashua.)

Legacy Comments3

Nanny state democrats - sheeeesh. I can see why teenagers and liberals should be restricted as they cant chew gum and walk at the same time. However, In this freedom and liberty loving state you cant pass a seat belt law so stop trying to control every other aspect of our lives. Lets not forget the same nanny state democrats put forward the "RED SWIM HAT" law and the "BALLOON RELEASE LAW" along with "TRANSGENDER BATHROOM LAW". democrats ....sheeeeeeesh!

I understand the dangers of texting while driving. I am concerned that we already have a law regarding distracted driving on the books which should cover this already. Additional questions: Will police offiers be permitted to use their phones when they are not responding to emergencies (I see countless police officers doing do today as they drive by)? As a licensed ham radio operator, am I still permitted to use my ham radio and/or walkie talkie ("HT") while driving? If not, what about the truckers with CB radios (again, not to mention police/fire/municipal workers with 2-way radios)? Will there be legislation that will ban use of built in navigation systems in cars? I'm not trying to be disrespectful, but I am concerned about these other items as well.

Please take the time to read this bill, HB 1360 as Amended. First responders strongly asserted that they wish to lead the way to safer driving on NH's roads by NOT being given "special exemptions" for these prohibitions, There is language in the bill that will make it more enforceable that the current "no texting" law, and hands-free devices are allowed. Please read the bill and I think many of your questions will be answered...

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