NH Law About... Hands-Free Law

Introduction to... Hands-Free Law

New Hampshire’s hands-free law, RSA 265:79-c, was passed in 2014 and goes into effect July 1, 2015. The law prohibits a driver of a motor vehicle from using any hand-held electronic device while driving or while halted in traffic for a momentary delay. There are exceptions for anyone making a 911 call, using a 2-way radio, or using a Bluetooth-enabled or other hands-free device. Anyone violating the general rule will be guilty of a criminal violation and be charged a fine. Everyone under 18 is prohibited from using any mobile device when driving, whether hands-free or not, except to report an emergency.

Another law relating to this topic, RSA 265:105-a, prohibits a driver of a motor vehicle from writing a text message while driving. The law does allow a driver to read, select or enter a phone number or name into an electronic device to make a phone call. It does not specify that the device should be hands-free. 

It isn't clear how these two statutes will coexist, given their apparent conflict. The 2009 statute allows some behavior with hand-held electronic devices which the 2014 hands-free statute prohibits. Conflict between statutes is common and a result of the piecemeal process of making law. It is to the legislature’s credit that this sort of conflict does not happen more often than it does. Eventually, either the legislature will have to address this conflict, probably by changing or repealing the 2009 statute or the courts will have to clarify the statutes when someone brings a case up under either of them. 

Finding the hands-free statute was unexpectedly difficult. Contrary to our usual recommendation, this is one time when keyword searching the online statutes worked better than using the print index. The statute uses the phrase "hands-free" so keyword searching works, but the print index doesn't contain "hands-free" or anything remotely like it. It was a good reminder to us to be flexible when researching. If one way doesn't work, try another. 

In the “Statute” section below in this Guide, there are several additional statutes listed which could also apply to a driver using hand-held electronic devices while driving. That kind of behavior could be brought as a civil offense under either reckless driving, vehicular assault, or negligent driving, under RSA 265:79, 79-a or 79-b, respectively, or, if severe enough, could become a criminal offense as defined in RSA 626:2.


Read about... Hands-Free Law

WEBSITES

New Hampshire's Hands-Free Law  GO>

Link verified on: June 9, 2015

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Read the law about... Hands-Free Law

NEW HAMPSHIRE STATUTES

RSA 263:14,III. Drivers' Licenses; [Revocation or Suspension of] Original and Youth Operators' License  GO>

Link verified on: June 9, 2015

RSA 265:79. Reckless Driving; Minimum Penalty  GO>

Link verified on: June 9, 2015

RSA 265:79-a. Vehicular Assault  GO>

Link verified on: June 9, 2015

RSA 265:79-b. Negligent Driving  GO>

Link verified on: June 9, 2015

RSA 265:79-c. Use of Mobile Electronic Devices while Driving; Prohibition  GO>

Link verified on: June 9, 2015

RSA 265:105-a. Prohibited Text Messages and Device Usage While Operating a Motor Vehicle  GO>

Link verified on: June 9, 2015

RSA 626:2, II(c). General Requirements of Culpability  GO>

Link verified on: June 9, 2015

Learn About New Hampshire Statutes: New Hampshire statutes are the laws of the State of New Hampshire as enacted by the New Hampshire General Court. GO>
 

NEW HAMPSHIRE CASES

166 N.H. 58 (2014). State v. Belleville  GO>

Link verified on: April 1, 2016

Learn About New Hampshire Cases: New Hampshire case law consists of the published opinions of the New Hampshire Supreme Court. GO>
 

FOR MORE HELP ...

Governors Highway Safety Association. Distracted Driving Laws

Link verified on: June 9, 2015

This chart outlines state distracted driving laws. Some localities have additional regulations.   GO>

United States. Dept. of Transportation. Distraction.gov

Link verified on: March 2, 2016

The U.S. Department of Transportation is leading the effort to stop texting and cell phone use behind the wheel. Since 2009, we have held two national distracted driving summits, banned texting and cell phone use for commercial drivers, encouraged states to adopt tough laws, and launched several campaigns to raise public awareness about the issue.   GO>

New Hampshire Law Library

Link verified on: February 22, 2017

The state's only public law library. Call, email, or visit, we'll be happy to help.   GO>


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