Despite "Hands Free Law" Passage NH Highway Deaths Remain High - Granite Grok

Despite “Hands Free Law” Passage NH Highway Deaths Remain High

In 2015 New Hampshire imposed a hands-free ban, which prohibits the handling of portable electronic devices while operating a motor vehicle (with a few exceptions). Since Democrat Gov. Maggie Hassan signed it every year in July we remind everyone that the legislation was a legisaltive photo-op. A “see we’re doing something measure” with no basis in fact and would provide no real-world results.

What I didn’t predict was that it might make matters worse.

I’ve thrown down a lot of text (not texting) on this issue, so my choice of “told you so” material is extensive, but an excellent place to begin is August 2015 after the ban went into effect. The state was investing a lot of time and treasure on an information and enforcement campaign. Electronic signs, increased stops, warnings, and citations.

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.

As I had done so many times before, I predicted that it would not deliver on the promise of fewer collisions and deaths. (reformatted)

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.

Collisions and deaths have increased almost every year.

A July 1st, 2016 report announced a 57% increase in fatalities from the previous year. We had 95 deaths in 2014 before the law. In 2015 there were 103 fatal crashes resulting in 114 deaths. In 2016 fatal crashes rose to 130, resulting in 136 dead. In 2017 we got a break. The numbers decreased. Woo Hoo! But now it appears to be a fluke.

The Mid-year 2018 data show a significant increase over 2017 on pace to match or beat 2016.

Year

Fatal Crash

Resulting Fatalities

2018*

64

70

·        As of 7/26/18

2017

98

102

2016

130

136

2015

103

114

2014

89

95

This sucks. It really does. Because the odds are good that some of this has something to do with people changing their behavior – not to comply with the law – but to thwart it.

People are more distracted trying to not get caught than they ever were when they were free to use devices openly. Yes, we all see folks who ignore the law.  Who use them in plain sight. And it’s annoying if we’re trying to comply. And there’s “never a cop around.”

I don’t like the law, but it is the law. So, has it added any value?

We had a distracted driving law in place already. We banned texting while driving which makes some semblance of sense. Then, in 2015, we banned handling devices altogether. And while it’s a polarizing topic, and we can’t know for sure what distractions or other factors are involved in every fatal crash we do know this. Fewer people got in the kinds of collisions that result in death before the hands-free law went into effect. Before hands-free tech was practically ubiquitous in American automobiles at nearly every price-point.

I’m a tech guy. I love the stuff. But people are still people. They will find ways to be distracted especially if you encourage them. But there is no legisaltive will to repeal it, and I doubt there ever will be.