DTNHsquareLogo_longLOVErivers in New Hampshire will no longer be able to legally drive while using handheld electronic devices that provide voice and data communication except to dial 911 or other safety agencies starting July 1, and it’s about time.

116 fatal crashes were linked to distraction over the past 4 years in this state, according to Handsfreenh.com.

Additionally, those under 18 will be totally barred from using any type of voice or data communication, including Bluetooth and other hands-free means of transmitting voice and data. Devices under this classification include iPods, iPads, GPS devices and tablets.

After Gov. Maggie Hassan signed the bill into law last July, the state began campaigning to spread awareness of this new regulation by putting up highway signs and handing out fliers to drivers at traffic stops. But what we’re left wondering is why it took so long for New Hampshire to make such a provision.

According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, 37 other states already have hands free laws in effect, and it’s mind boggling to think that after July 1 there will still be 12 other states without such laws. But that’s a different story in itself.

Just like any other legislation, merely ‘prohibiting’ using a handheld device while driving does not necessarily mean it will cease to occur.  The idea is to minimize the number of those doing so via the ramification of receiving a fine. However, the fine for violating this new law is shockingly light.

The law fines anyone in violation $100 for the first offense, $250 for the second offense and $500 for the third offense (within 2 years). But this is not enough of a disincentive to effectively prevent drivers from doing so.

If lawmakers wanted to create safer roadways, then the consequences need to be made more severe. The fine should be set at $200 for the first offense and $350 for the second offense. If a driver commits a third offense in a two-year span, another $500 fine should be incurred. Additionally, the driver’s license should be suspended for a minimum of 15 days.

Except during emergencies, there is no reason why a driver should be using a handheld cellular device. Handsfreenh.com lists that dialing a phone number increases the likelihood of a crash three-fold.

The reality of driving is that a lot of lives are at stake on the roads: the drivers’, the passengers’ and other road-based travelers’. Focusing on the road should be a driver’s constant care.

Using means of hands-free cellular communication like headsets and the various applications of Bluetooth is more practical, and likely more safe, than hand-held devices in the sense that the driver’s eyes are never taken off the road. We’re glad New Hampshire lawmakers have taken a step in the right direction toward creating safer roads for drivers in the Granite State.

Nonetheless, we implore you to think critically about what the implications of distracted driving can be. 

When it comes to cellphone use in general, we’d prefer you kept in your pants or otherwise out of immediate reach.