NH Gov Signs Law Banning Texting While Driving

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Gov. John Lynch signed a law Friday making New Hampshire the 15th state to ban text messaging while driving.

"It is clear that texting while driving poses a serious danger on our roadways. This new law sends a strong message that drivers should be attentive to the road, and those around them at all times," Lynch said in a statement.

The law also bans typing on laptop computers or other electronic devices while driving. An exception is made for entering a name and number in a cell phone to make a call.

The state Senate killed a similar bill last year, but a trolley accident in Massachusetts blamed on the operator texting his girlfriend before the crash helped turn things around. The accident sent nearly 50 people to the hospital.

Lynch had expressed concern police would have to choose between the penalty in the law banning text messaging and a different penalty under the state's negligent and distracted driving law. The fine for negligent driving is a minimum of $250 and a maximum of $500 for a first offense. Texting violators face a $100 fine.

Supporters had said police could easily identify offenders of texting while driving.

The state law covering negligent or distracted driving doesn't specifically address text-messaging or typing on computers.

The texting ban takes effect Jan. 1.

Lawmakers are getting tough on texting as reports of accidents blamed on it grow more frequent.
One of the deadliest was last year in California when a commuter train engineer ran through a red signal into an oncoming freight train, killing 25 people. Federal investigators said the engineer was text messaging 22 seconds before the crash.

Fourteen other states and the District of Columbia have laws that ban the practice or that take effect this year. Other states also are considering bans. In Illinois, a bill is awaiting the governor's signature. A number of communities also have implemented bans.

A new study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute concluded the collision risk was 23 times greater when drivers of heavy trucks texted while driving. Dialing a cell phone and using or reaching for an electronic device increased the collision risk about 6 times in cars and trucks, the study found.

The institute used cameras to continuously observe light vehicle drivers and truckers for more than 6 million miles.

This program aired on July 31, 2009. The audio for this program is not available.