Distracted driving in New Hampshire is a serious issue, increasing drivers’ risk of getting into a car accident by three times. Fortunately, distracted driving facts reveal that “hands-free” driving can limit the number of fatalities caused by most car accidents.

Laws have been restricting driving behaviors in an attempt to reduce accidents in New Hampshire since 2010, but recent laws have been put into effect that could impact drivers. NH drivers must be aware of all the distractions they may face on the road, including texting and driving, and be prepared to combat them.

The following sections cover everything drivers need to know to stay safe and remain legal in NH. Because not all distracted driving laws are obvious, drivers must learn the basic laws that pertain to them. Read on to learn more about the dangers of inattentive driver and what you can do to protect yourself and your passengers.

What is distracted driving in New Hampshire?

Distracted driving pertains to any activity that keeps drivers from controlling their vehicles to the full extent. In NH, texting while driving and adjusting a GPS are considered distractions. Although some actions that constitute distractions on the road are not illegal (e.g., talking to passengers), all actions that distract drivers from driving safely can be dangerous.

Therefore, the state’s definition of driving distractions includes physically interacting with any handheld device while driving, driving with an obstructed view and driving while mentally distracted. Particularly, NH focuses on the issue of texting and how it results in fatal accidents.

Texting and driving accidents are still prevalent in NH because of the attention texting requires. According to the Driving Toward Zero Program, a single text can distract a driver for up to five seconds. Over 5,000 drivers, passengers and pedestrians in the U.S. are killed annually due to inattention while on the road, an unfortunate statistic for a preventable issue.

Distracted Driving Laws in New Hampshire for Handheld Devices

Distracted driving laws are quite comprehensive. The most common type of distracted driving law that exists in the U.S. regulates the use of handheld devices like GPS, cellphones, tablets and more. Passed in 2014, the hands-free law in NH addresses drivers’ use of handheld devices. However, this law has a few exceptions. These are as follows:

  • The driver is making an emergency call to public safety agencies for legitimate reasons.
  • The driver is using a two-way radio.
  • The driver is using a hands-free device such as those with Bluetooth.

If these exceptions apply, then the driver may continue to communicate or interact with the device. However, if the driver is younger than 18 years old, hands-free devices are not permitted at any time while operating a vehicle.

Texting and Driving Laws in New Hampshire

Unlike in other states, NH’s texting and driving laws allow police officers to stop drivers they suspect are texting or using a cellphone unsafely. Because texting and driving is classified as a primary offense under state law, drivers do not have to commit other traffic violations to be pulled over.

New Hampshire safety officials take texting while driving laws seriously, so drivers need to know when it is appropriate to text in a vehicle to prevent fines and accidents.

The law applies to all drivers while they are behind the wheel in the flow of traffic. This means that texting at stop lights and stop signs, even if the vehicle is completely stationary, is also illegal. No texting and driving is permitted until the vehicle is parked or removed from traffic.

New Hampshire Laws on Distracted Driving for Novice Drivers

In an attempt to limit the distractions novice drivers may encounter, the NH Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) states that drivers younger than 18 years old with a youth operator license cannot do any of the following:

  1. Operate a vehicle from 1 to 4 a.m.
  2. Drive with more than one non-relative passenger who is younger than 25 years old unless accompanied by a licensed adult aged 25 or older
  3. Drive with more passengers than seatbelts in a vehicle
  4. Use electronic devices of any kind unless reporting an emergency

While these laws do not stop distracted driving altogether, they may dissuade novice drivers, particularly those with a learner’s permit, from adopting some dangerous driving habits.

New Hampshire Distracted Driving Regulations for CDL Holders

Laws against distracted driving are adjusted for commercial drivers. Commercial driver’s license (CDL) holders receive stricter distracted driving penalties when they perform hazardous actions while driving. This is often because CDL holders operate larger vehicles and adhere to higher driving standards.

The Large Truck Crash Causation Study (LTCCS) indicated that about 8 percent of crashes involving large trucks were caused by CDL holders getting distracted. Motor carriers cannot require CDL holders to use hand-held phones in any fashion. Cell phone distraction resulting from dialing, pressing a button or reaching for a phone is illegal under NH law. Additionally, texting and driving is prohibited for commercial drivers.

Distracted Driving Penalties in New Hampshire

Anyone found to violate laws will be fined. A distracted driving ticket listing a fine amount will be issued to guilty drivers as well. Distracted driving fines are determined by the number of offenses drivers have committed. A list of the fines is provided below:

  • First offense: $100 fine
  • Second offense: $250 fine
  • Third offense within two years: $500 fine

However, distracted drivers who cause collisions, injuries or deaths will be subject to fines of up to $1,000. Special consequences for distracted driving for commercial drivers include license suspension. After two or more distracted driving convictions within a certain period, CDL holders’ licenses will be disqualified for up to 120 days. Their employers may also face penalties like fines.

Ways to Prevent Distracted Driving in New Hampshire

To ensure road safety, drivers should abstain from all cell phone use while driving and refrain from other distracting tasks such as eating, reading, smoking and talking emotively. Here are some tips drivers may follow to help avoid distractions on the road:

  • Turn off all electronic devices. These may attract your attention, but turning them off can eliminate the distracting sounds and lights.
  • Do a car safety check. Ensure every passenger is secure and ready to travel before beginning to drive. Driving distractions like children and pets can be dangerous, so you should attend to their needs and buckle them in safely before leaving the driveway.
  • Avoid multitasking. While you may be tempted to respond to a work email, adjust the GPS or start eating some fast food in the car, these small actions can cause accidents. Try to focus on driving and keep your eyes on the road whenever possible.
Last updated on Wednesday, October 14 2020.