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NH's "Hands Free" Law

Over the years, distracted driving has been the root cause of many motor vehicle crashes – many with tragic, life-changing results. With previous employers, I had the pleasure of driving throughout New Hampshire putting in about 30,000 miles “seat time”. Distraction comes in many forms and I’ve witnessed first-hand some bizarre behaviors by other drivers. Eating, drinking, shaving, hair drying, make-up applying, nail polish applying, tooth brushing, reading books positioned on the steering wheel to even a driver on a rural street reading a newspaper that was placed over the windshield are but a few of the outlandish acts! Loud music, rambunctious children, arguments and the like are all distractions that, left uncorrected, will inevitably lead to a crash.

Modern cars are designed to be quiet and most comfortable. It could be that the most comfortable chair one may own is the 6-way, electronically adjustable, heated driver’s seat in a car. With the advent of the cell phone, GPS and now the “smart” phone coupled with frequent long commutes, a driver now has an office on wheels and makes every effort to conduct business while on the road.

Through the efforts of many safety-related stakeholders in New Hampshire, the Legislature introduced and passed last August HB 1360. Gov. Maggie Hassan signed HB 1360 into law. It makes hand-held cellphone use punishable by a $100 fine for the first offense, $250 for a second offense and $500 for subsequent offenses within a 24-month period. The law allows hands-free cellphone operation, but prohibits drivers from texting, emailing and programming GPS systems while the car is in motion. The ban will apply while drivers are stopped temporarily, such as at red lights, but not if they have pulled off a roadway. The law allows hands-free cellphone operation, but prohibits drivers from texting, emailing and programming GPS systems while the car is in motion. Only time will tell as to the positive impact of this measure. Rest assured, local and state police are prepared to “remind” drivers of any offences.

I recently asked a driver who was clearly texting if she knew of the upcoming law and about distracted driving. Her response? “I am familiar with the law and distracted driving but it isn’t in effect yet!” This response, as startling as it may seem, is typical of the “it won’t happen to me” response. Regrettably, McGregor Memorial EMS responds to numerous crashes where not a single involved person thought it would happen to them.

Ideally, one should not even be using “hands-free” technology as that has still been proven to be distracting due to focusing on the conversation. If you have Bluetooth technology in your car be certain it is enabled. Even text messages can be sent and retrieved via Bluetooth. Should your vehicle not be Bluetooth equipped, there are excellent after-market devices that work well. Jabra makes an entire line of devices that attach to the sun visor.

New Hampshire Driving Toward Zero is a program targeted at all aspect of safe driving. Check it out at Be safe out there.

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