Is the NH Hands-Free Law Working? I Guess That Depends on What 'Working' Means? - Granite Grok

Is the NH Hands-Free Law Working? I Guess That Depends on What ‘Working’ Means?

A message on a Department of Transportation sign on Route 101 west in Auburn warns drivers of enforcement of the hands-free law. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)
A message on a Department of Transportation sign on Route 101 west in Auburn warns drivers of enforcement of the hands-free law. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

The introduction of the hands-free electronic device ban in New Hampshire is an arbitrary assault on liberty. Readers of these pages will know why. There is no evidence that a ban can accomplish that for which it has been imposed; a reduction in collisions, injuries, and deaths.

So what! The law went in to effect July 1st and yesterday, the Union Leader published a front page story on the ban. What did we learn?

The State Police had this to say.

“I’m very pleased with the way things have gone. I think there’s been a high degree of compliance,” said Shapiro, special services commander for state police. “I was surprised, as was most everyone I talked to in law enforcement, about how difficult it is to find violators.”

According to the article “As of Thursday (8/20/2015), state police had written 786 traffic tickets and 439 citations..,” which amounts to 1225 documented incidents by the State Police or 24.5 stops for every day after enforcement began.

We do not know how many tickets or citations have been issued by local law enforcement but according the UL article,

…patrol Sgt. Tom Bergeron said most city police are still trying to educate motorists about the law. A motorist is likely to get off with a warning, as long as he’s polite and doing nothing egregious.

“Almost daily you still see people doing it,” Bergeron said. “I caught myself doing it two times.

So we’ve got a high degree of compliance, but we don’t. It is surprising how difficult it is to find violators, but almost daily you still see people doing it.

Can we call that a mixed bag? So what now?

The enforcement class appears certain that people will just accept the law. New motorists embrace it because they are “born” with the ban. Veterans deterred by the threat of financial loss will come around. But to what end? There is not one shred of data in this article to justify the sacrifice.

Was there a year on year improvement or reduction in the historical average for fender-benders, injuries, or fatalities? Did the exercise of pulling over and citing 1225 motorists offset the time and treasure of taxpayer dollars that accompanies collisions that did not happen as a result? Or did we just make Troopers stand along the highway at greater risk to their persons to levy a tax on tourists who knew nothing of the ban?

I guess it was not important enough for a front page article in the states largest newspaper to mention even the absence of comparable crash data. Maybe that sort of thing is difficult to find as well? Even from a state trooper with access to that sort of information?

While I’m being a pill, I also take issue with the headline of the article: “Police: Texting down to 1 in 100.”

There is no mention of texting in the article. We had a texting ban, which is difficult to enforce. But (apparently?) there has been a drastic reduction in the use of handheld cellphones (while driving), all thanks to the more comprehensive ban and a “Vader is coming” enforcement campaign.

The media attention. The electronic billboards. The brochures. And — of course — the tickets and warnings.

All have combined to bring an apparently drastic reduction in the use of handheld cellphones over the past two months, according to a key New Hampshire State Police official who has been one of the biggest promoters of the hands-free law.

Speaking anecdotally, state police Lt. Matthew Shapiro said he thinks only 1 in 100 drivers now use a handheld mobile telephone at any given time. Before a ban went into effect on July 1, he estimates the rate was close to one in 10.

Speaking anecdotally myself, we spent a lot of money advertising the ban, and will spend a lot of money on enforcement, so I’d like to see some data.

No, it won’t amount to a measurable improvement and it will not encourage any change away from arbitrary unenforceable bans.

The restriction has been imposed despite readily accessible evidence that it would do no measurable “advertised” good.

There will be no great savings of lives or reductions in property damage.

The ban does inconvenience tens of thousands of motorists daily. There is an immeasurable loss of productivity. Drivers may experience a reduction in overall gas mileage; you have to pull over and park to use your device so the climate will, presumably, suffer. But sakeholders will profit from implementation and enforcement, and it does produce a measurable revenue stream.

So it is working, if you accept that this was how it was meant to “work” all along.