Our local paper recently reported that there will be legislation introduced in New Hampshire this year to outlaw the use of cell-phones by people driving on New Hampshire’s roads. Good idea, right? Well, yes, except…. The law would not extend to hands-free use. While this will be a boon to personal injury lawyers statewide, this is a terrible idea for the general public.
Study after study has shown that talking and texting using hands-free devices is just as distracting–and just as dangerous– as using a hand-held device. The distraction does not arise from handling the device; the distraction comes from dividing one’s attention between the phone and the road. In fact, studies show that drivers using hands-free devices perform about as well behind the wheel as drivers with a blood alcohol content at the legal threshold of .08%.
There is an even more disturbing aspect to this proposed legislation. By carving out an exception for hands-free devices, the legislature will clearly be sending a message that talking and texting while driving is safe so long as it is done on a hands-free device.
The result? Personal injury lawyers like me are likely to see a bump in our caseload. But the cost to the state as a whole will be more accidents, more injuries, more deaths and more heartache for the families of loved ones victimized by people thinking that what they are doing is “safe.”
By all means, cellphone use in the car should be outlawed. But a measure that allows for unsafe drivers to continue their unsafe ways would be very dangerous. It should be illegal for a driver to engage in ANY cellphone use. Let’s hope the legislature gets the message sooner rather than later.