New Hampshire bill stalls; would have banned on-road texting

| 7/1/2008

A bill has died in the New Hampshire statehouse that was intended to curb drivers’ text messaging in the state.

The Senate voted 15-8 to table the bill, effectively killing it. The House previously approved it on a 176-149 vote.

Sponsored by Rep. David Campbell, D-Nashua, the measure – HB1222 – sought to forbid text-messaging or any form of typing that requires both hands. Reading text messages would not have been prohibited.

Violators would have faced $100 fines.

Hands-free devices wouldn’t have been included in the ban. Of particular interest to truckers, the bill made exceptions for Qualcomm-type devices.

Emergency calls also would have been exempted.

Despite the results in New Hampshire, attempts to curb the practice of using the devices while driving have picked up steam following the release of a Nationwide Mutual Insurance survey that found one in five drivers “texting” while driving. That number nearly doubles for drivers aged 18 to 27.

Critics of the legislation in New Hampshire said that state law already prohibits negligent driving. The ban covers any driving behavior that could result in injury to others or property damage. However, supporters said it doesn’t specifically address the use of cell phones and other devices while at the wheel.

New Jersey and Washington are the only states to restrict text messaging while driving. Minnesota recently approved its own ban on text messaging.

Campbell said if he is re-elected this fall he intends to pursue the restriction again during the 2009 regular session.

To view other legislative activities of interest for New Hampshire, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor