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Case made to Senate panel for ban on hand-held cell phone use while driving
The bill would allow the hands-free use of a cell phone via speaker phone, BlueTooth or on-board car phones, GPS or other electronic devices for drivers older than 18 years old.
Supporters noted that distracted driving is a factor in 27 percent of the fatal accidents in the state over the last three years, resulting in 116 deaths.
But opponents said the bill overreaches and its prohibitions are unrealistic. And they said current laws against distracted driving are not enforced and should be before any new restrictions are imposed.
Rep. Gary Daniels, R-Milford, noted the bill makes an exception for the use of CB radios and like devices; someone could just as easily hold a cell phone with one hand and carry on a conversation while looking at the road, he said.
Cell phone bans while driving have been before the legislature many times; none had been successful until the House passed HB 1360 on a 192-133 vote last month.
Using a cell phone while driving is banned in 12 states; 41 states prohibit texting while driving.
The bill creates the crime of impeded driving, which would be a primary offense that allows a police officer to stop a vehicle for violating the law. Under a secondary offense, police may not stop a vehicle for the violation, but if the driver is stopped for another violation, a charge can be brought.
The bill also had the backing of the New Hampshire Auto Dealers Association.
"You see people weave in and out of lanes like never before," Gaudet said. "I was a biker, but I bought a mountain bike last year. If you're out on the roads today, it's scary."
The only opposition to the bill at the Senate hearing came from representatives who had opposed the bill in the House.
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