EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

New Hampshire

May 11, 2014

Cellphone use getting more restrictive in New England

New England states crack down on cellphone use, distracted driving

There should be a lot fewer drivers motoring through New England with a phone to their ear.

Hand-held cellphone bans are coming to New Hampshire and Vermont. The practice already is banned in Connecticut.

Minors at the wheel won’t be allowed to use a phone of any kind — hand-held or otherwise — in any of the six New England states if New Hampshire’s law takes effect July 1, 2015. Gov. Maggie Hassan has indicated she will sign the bill.

In neighboring Vermont, lawmakers reached a compromise on further restricting cellphone use there last week. Minors can’t drive and talk and, as of Oct. 1, no drivers will be allowed to use hand-held phones or other electronic devices.

Minors, often referred to as novice drivers, are at the highest risk of distracted driving involving cellphone use, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association.

New England lawmakers apparently concur. With the passage of laws in New Hampshire and Vermont, minors won’t be allowed to use cellphones anywhere in New England when behind the wheel.

Now, adult use is becoming more restrictive, too.

Connecticut took the lead in New England, enacting a hand-held ban in 2005. It was only the second state in the country to do so. New York’s ban took effect in 2001.

Proponents of restricting cellphone use cite some staggering statistics. So far this year, nearly 364,000 crashes nationally involved drivers using cellphones to talk or text, according to the National Safety Council.

In New Hampshire, 27 percent of fatal accidents over the past three years were attributed to distracted drivers.

Nationwide, at least one driver reported being distracted in 15 percent to 30 percent of all crashes, the Governors Highway Safety Association reported.

In 2009, nationally, 3,331 people were killed in accidents involving a distracted driver, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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