EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

New Hampshire

December 27, 2009

Text-messaging ban to begin in NH

Similar legislation fails in Mass.

If it's your New Year's resolution to stop texting while driving, a new law will enable police around the Granite State to help you keep it.

"Texting has become a social and cultural explosion," said state Rep. David Campbell, D-Nashua. "It's done by people of all ages, and it's been shown by numerous studies that it is the number one most dangerous act you can do while driving."

Gov. John Lynch signed the law in August banning texting while driving. But it is still legal to text while driving in Massachusetts despite attempts to pass a ban there.

Campbell, who sponsored the New Hampshire bill, said recent studies have shown texting while driving to be even more dangerous than driving drunk.

The law, which takes effect Jan. 1, also bans using two hands to operate any other electronic device while driving. Violators can be hit with a $100 fine.

New Hampshire was the 15th state to outlaw texting while driving. Four have followed suit since August, bringing the total to 19. Six states, including Connecticut and New York, ban use of hand-held cell phones.

Campbell said he decided to sponsor the legislation after seeing a middle-aged man in a business suit driving a Volvo on the interstate — with a laptop on the dashboard. The state already has a statute that outlaws distracted or negligent driving, but Campbell said his research showed it had never been enforced.

"Eating a Big Mac or putting on your makeup, while they're dangerous behaviors, they're pretty hard to enforce," he said. Texting, he said, will be more clear.

New Hampshire State Police Capt. John LeLacheur said people are still free to talk on their phones — and the law allows people to enter numbers or letters to dial a phone number.

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