The state of New Hampshire is amping up the law enforcement against distracted driving.
According to the City of Keene’s Finance, Organization and Personnel Committee agenda, the Operation Safe Commute Patrol grant has been accepted.
The grant is over $6,000 and will help pay overtime for the Keene police officers when they are patrolling the streets of Keene looking for distracted drivers.
The agenda also states the patrols will be during high commute hours on various dates, where officers will be on the road looking for distracted drivers.
The times that officers will be on the lookout will be from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. and again from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on certain dates until September 2015.
The grant is sponsored by the New Hampshire Highway Agency. Lieutenant Steve Stewart of the Keene Police Department said, “The state [of New Hampshire] is giving us money to pay our officers to do traffic enforcement.”
According to distraction.gov, distractions while driving can range from switching radio stations to texting or talking on the phone.
There is also a new law about distracted driving going into effect July 1, 2015. House Bill 1360 bans handheld electronics in the car while driving. This is another way the police will cut down on distracted driving in New Hampshire.
The bill stated people will be able to call an emergency number, like 911 or the fire department, using a handheld electronic device, but any other action will result in a fine and penalty assessment.
Any guilty of a violation shall be fined $100 plus penalty assessment for a first offense, $250 plus penalty assessment for a second offense and $500 plus penalty assessment for any subsequent offense within a 24-month period the House Bill 1360 stated.
“Which means you can’t hold anything in your hand at all, whether it’s a GPS, phone or any other electronic device,” Lt. Stewart said.
However, according to House Bill 1360, the bill does not include people who pull off to a safe and legal space on the side of the road.
Keene State College alumna Celeste Thibault said she drove with distractions before, ranging from playing loud music and changing songs on her iPod to talking on the phone.
Thibault said having a law that does not allow people to hold electronics in their hands while driving is something that should have been enacted a long time ago.
“I’m actually surprised that they haven’t banned cell phone use while driving in New Hampshire yet,” Thibault said.
According to Thibault, driving with distractions is not the best thing to do, but there are other issues that need to be addressed. “Is it [distracted driving] a big issue compared to a lot of the international affairs?” Thibault asked, “No,” she continued, “but it is an important issue to address in modern society.”
Junior Sarah Larocque agreed with Thibault. Larocque said having the state of New Hampshire get distracted driving under control may be a lower priority compared to other issues in society, but is still something that needs to be taken into consideration.
“I think it’s [distracted driving] a problem that’s worth addressing, but I think comparatively to the other issues the country has, it looks a little more pale,” Larocque said, “but that does not make it an issue that’s not important.”
Larocque said she thinks music can be played in the car and is not a big distraction, as long as it is not too loud. Being able to hear emergency vehicles is something that is very important, according to Larocque.
Larocque thinks the grant should be enforced because there are more cars on the road while people are going to and from work. “It’s [the grant] a good idea because during high commute times you have to be more vigilant for distracted drivers,” Larocque said.
According to Lt. Stewart, the City of Keene does not receive any fines from state motor vehicle tickets, but rather, the money goes straight to the state of New Hampshire.
“Hopefully this new law will crack down on [distracted driving],” Lt. Stewart said.
Rebecca Marsh can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org