Written By Robin Melone, LRS Attorney Panelist.
It means put down your phone, GPS, ipod, walkman or diskman and drive.
House Bill 1360 makes it illegal to use a cellphone, GPS device, ipod, tablet or any other hand held or manipulated device while driving a vehicle. What does “driving” mean? It means the motor is running, your keys are in the ignition. So don’t pick it up at stoplights or while sitting in traffic either. You can place calls from a running vehicle pulled safely to the side of the road or to another legal stopping place that doesn’t inhibit traffic (think parking lots). If you’re 18 years old or younger, you can’t even use hands-free devices. Emergency calls to 911 will not be a violation. Calls to your mom will.
Bluetooth technology and other hand-free devices are allowed. The law specifically says you won’t be found in violation if you use one hand to “activate, de-active or initiate a function” of your phone.” I can say that having spent about 15 minutes in a room chatting with a group of officers and attorneys, we were unable to agree whether this means you can use Siri to place a call or use the iphone headphone option if the phone is not mounted. I anticipate a lot of legal wrangling to sort out exactly what is and is not OK under this law. In the meantime, better to be safe.
Voice activation is your best bet. For those of us without Bluetooth integration in our vehicles, there are a few reasonably priced options online, at your local Target, Best Buy, or other electronics store.
You can buy a mounting device for about $20. Since the law allows you touch a button to initiate or disconnect calls this could work. Though I would suggest Bluetooth is the safer bet.
The Motorola Roadster 2 rings up around $85. It is voice activated and can access your contacts. It says it is universal, meaning it will work with all phones. When a call is coming in you’ll be asked to say “answer” or “ignore.” No need to touch any buttons. Reviews are good and say the noise canceling works well.
Jabra also makes a number of Bluetooth visor-clip adapters. The Tour is around $50 on discount sites while the Freeway comes in around $80. These two appear to have the best reviews for sound quality, ease of use and battery life.
Unlike seatbelt laws which say you can’t be stopped just because you aren’t wearing a seatbelt, an officer CAN stop you simply because they think you are using your phone or some other device while driving. And if you are seen holding a device in the proximity of your ear while your car is in motion, you are presumed to be making a call and in violation. A first offense will cost you $100 with fines increasing to $250 for a second offense and $500 for a third offense within 24 months.
If you get ticketed for using a device and want to fight it call a lawyer. Act quickly, though, since not paying tickets for this or any other motor vehicle offense in a timely manner can lead to license suspension, which can lead to charges of driving with a suspended license and larger fines and the threat of jail.
Finally, just because a police officer is legally allowed to stop you for using your phone while driving does not mean they can legally ask to search your car, your belongings, or your person. I suggest you politely decline any such requests.
As always, nothing here should be construed as legal advice or to create an attorney/client relationship between you and Melone Law. I don’t work for Motorola or Jabra and am not being compensated for mentioning their products here.
Be safe everyone!
If you are ticketed under this new law, and you wish to contest it, call the Lawyer Referral Service of the New Hampshire Bar Association for a referral to an attorney who specifically handles this or any other type of legal matter. Call (603) 229-0002 or request a referral online. There is no charge for the referral.