What is Distracted Driving?
Distracted driving pertains to any action that prevents drivers from being fully in control of their vehicle. Sending or reading a text takes a driver’s eyes off the road for 5 seconds according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. At 55mph one would drive the length of a football field during that time period. As of 2018, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation, 5.7% of drivers at any given time are distracted by electronics (handheld cell phone use, visible headset cell phone use, or visible manipulation of handheld devices).
It is impossible to drive safely without one’s full attention, and the increasing use of cell phones, GPS, and other technologies greatly increases the likelihood of auto accidents. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in 2018 an estimated 400,000 were injured in crashes caused by distracted driving and 2,841 people were killed by distracted driving.
Distracted Driving in New Hampshire
According to the New Hampshire Department of Safety (NHDOS) it is estimated that 30% of all car crashes are caused by distracted driving, and 11% of the estimated 30% are caused by portable electronic mobile devices specifically. The NHDOS Office of Highway Safety (OHS) reports that these estimates are most likely under reported. These estimates are difficult to determine because often distraction is listed secondary to another cause such as speeding or witnesses are unaware if the other driver was distracted. In their Highway Safety Plan 2021, NHDOS OHS explains that the difficulty of determining distracted driving as the cause of an accident, “…can be somewhat compounded as New Hampshire requires a search warrant with adequate probable cause to seize an electronic device for specific evidence.” In 2019, NHDOS OHS reports there were 970 inattention caused crashes resulting in serious bodily injury. On average between 2015-2019 5 driving fatalities per year in New Hampshire were caused by distracted driving, but NHDOS OHS suspects distracted driving to be greatly underreported in fatal and serious injury collisions.
What New Hampshire Laws Prevent Distracted Driving?
New Hampshire has taken steps to reduce distracted driving with the “hands-free law”. Title XXI Motor Vehicles Chapter 265 Section 265:79-c prohibits the use of mobile electronic devices while driving in an effort to prevent auto crashes. The law applies to all drivers while they are behind the wheel in the flow of traffic including when the vehicle is completely stationary at stop lights and stop signs. Texting and driving is only permitted if the vehicle is parked or removed from traffic. However, this law has a few exceptions including:
- 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 over the age of 18 and using a hands-free device such as those with Bluetooth.
Violators are fined $100 plus penalty assessment for a first offense, $250 plus penalty assessment for a second offense, and $500 plus penalty assessment for any subsequent offense within a 24-month period.
New Hampshire is dedicated to cracking down on and reducing distracted driving. In 2018 alone the State Police alongside local law enforcement conducted 3,475 distracted driving patrol hours and in their 2021 Highway Safety Plan, NHDOS OHS focuses on an educational campaign to reduce distracted driving.
Ways to Prevent Distracted Driving in New Hampshire
To ensure road safety and avoid automobile accidents, drivers should abstain from all cell phone use while driving and refrain from other distracting tasks such as eating, reading, smoking, etcetera. Here are some tips drivers may follow to help avoid electronic distractions and car crashes on the road:
- Turn off or silence all electronic devices. These may attract your attention, but turning them off can eliminate the distracting sounds and lights.
- Use equipment to make necessary electronics hands free.
- Prepare turn by turn navigation or music prior to driving.
- Pull over and park in a legal and safe location to use electronics.
I was in an auto accident caused by distracted driving – what should I do?
If you or a loved one have been involved in a car accident caused by distracted driving be sure to contact an automobile accident attorney. Auto crashes cause personal injury and property damage that can be emotionally, physically, and financially devastating. Car crash lawyers and personal injury attorneys such as Attorney Charlie Donahue can help you navigate the difficult conversations and paperwork with insurance companies so that you receive the best possible outcome.
If you need assistance after a car crash, please call Attorney Charlie Donahue of Donahue Law at (603) 357- 2363 or send him a message here for a free consultation.