Know Your New England Driving Laws: NH Hands-Free Law & More

Written by April Weismann on 06/29/2015 12:01 PM in Safety Tips.

Summer is here and many of us will be hitting the open road to camp in our National Forests, build sand castles on the beach or head out to the many festivals that occur throughout New England. Most of us in New Hampshire are aware of the impending law that takes effect on July 1st, 2015 which will ban a driver's use of a handheld electronic device, but what about the laws in other states?

What happens when you, a NH resident, go into Maine to have some fresh lobster but don't think about whether you are wearing a seat belt or not? Does Maine have a seat belt law? What if you are up in the White Mountains on your Harley and decide to head over to the Green Mountain State, but you don't have a helmet? Could you be pulled over? Different states have different laws and as our mothers used to tell us, ignorance is not an excuse. You are responsible for adhering to each state's laws when you cross state lines. To avoid unnecessary fines and stress, HPM Insurance has published the following chart as a guide to what is on the books in each state

  Hand-Held Ban All Cell Use Ban Text Ban
NH Yes (as of 7/1/15) Less than 18 years old Yes
ME No Learner or Intermediate License Yes
VT Yes Less than 18 years old Yes
MA No Less than 18 years old Yes
NY Yes No Yes
CT Yes Less than 18 years old Yes
RI No Less than 18 years old Yes
  Helmet Requirement Seat Belt Requirement
NH Less than 18 years old No
ME Licensed less than 1 year Yes
VT Yes Yes
MA Yes Yes
NY Yes Yes
CT Less than 18 years old Yes
RI Less than 21 years old or licensed less than 1 year Yes

NH Hands-Free Law

Though word is getting out about the July 1st law that takes effect in NH, many people are not aware as to the extent of this law. New Hampshire aims to reduce the number of distracted driving crashes by outlawing the use of handheld electronic devices while driving behind the wheel. The law, which actually passed in 2014, goes into effect on July 1st. After this time, drivers will be subject to fines, penalties and potential suspension of their license for failing to put their cell phones down.

The Specifics of the NH Hands-Free Law

Drivers in NH should be aware that they can no longer use any electronic device that requires data entry. This includes smartphones (for talk, text or internet access), tablets, iPods or other music playing devices, and GPS devices. This restriction applies even when stopped at a stop sign, red light, traffic jam or other temporary pause. Drivers who wish to use these devices must pull to the side of the road and remain at a full stop until they are finished with their device. The only exceptions that will be made are for emergency calls to 9-1-1.

Bluetooth Accommodations

Devices and cars equipped withBluetooth or other hands-free systems will still be allowed. New Hampshire police recommend installing aftermarket Bluetooth receivers to encourage hands-free usage. Non-cellular 2-way radio that is used with one hand will also still be allowed.

Teen drivers will face even more stringent restrictions with absolutely no electronic usage while driving, no matter if the device is hands-free or not. Anyone under 18 caught using a device for non-emergency calls will be subject to additional penalties including the possible revocation of their license.

Enforcement & Penalties for NH Hands-Free Law

Laws similar to New Hampshire’s new hands-free law have typically been hard to enforce because they are not as far reaching. New Hampshire legislators and safety officials hope that by banning all usage of handheld devices while driving, they will be more able to enforce the rule, driving home the message that distracted driving is not safe and will not be tolerated. The first offense will incur a $100 fine, the second goes up to $250, and a third offense within 2 years carries a $500 fine. Penalties may be added on top of these fine amounts and will appear on driving history reports and thus impacting insurance rates.

We Value You

New Hampshire and other states passing similar hands-free laws hope that with new laws and strict enforcement, drivers will take the message to heart: distracted driving is as dangerous as drunk driving, and should be treated just as seriously by drivers. Though it may seem harmless to check an email or send a quick text, no message is worth risking your life, and the life of others.

Stay safe!

This material is for informational purposes only. All statements herein are subject to the applicable laws within each state and are subject to change.

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