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12/29/2008
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New Hampshire Considers Ban On Texting While Driving

Washington state, Alaska, the District of Columbia, Louisiana, Minnesota, and New Jersey all have similar bans in effect.

New Hampshire, the only state in the union with no adult seat belt law, is considering adopting a ban on texting while driving.

The state's legislature has rejected several previous attempts to restrict the use of cell phones, laptops, and other electronic devices by drivers. But one sponsor of safety legislation, Rep. David Campbell, thinks the state may be ready to support the legislation now.

New Hampshire residents have long lived up to the state's motto -- "Live Free Or Die" -- and opposed laws they believe are restrictive. Supporters of seat belt legislation have sometimes replied to the official motto with their own motto -- "Live Free And Die" but the seat belt restriction has remained in force for years.

Another New Hampshire legislator, Rep. Richard Drisko, has broadened the proposed ban by including a provision to restrict drivers from driving with a pet on their laps. That measure has picked up additional support from animal lovers and their organizations.

"People are 50-50, there are mixed feelings toward [the legislation]," said Drisko, according to media reports. "A lot of people like it, a lot of people don't like it."

Several states have banned the use of cell phones while driving and, as fatal accidents are increasingly blamed on driver cell phone use, more states are voting for the bans.

Passage of no "DWT" -- driving while texting -- legislation in New Hampshire would be looked upon as something of a breakthrough because of the state's fierce independence. In addition to New Hampshire's lack of seat belt bans, the state has no income tax and no sales tax.

Last year, Campbell's bill passed in the House but died in the Senate. The proposed legislation would exempt drivers of emergency vehicles as well as emergency calls and reporting a crime.

New Hampshire is the latest in a string of states putting laws in the books to keep drivers from texting. Beginning next year, it will be illegal to send and read text messages while driving in California. Washington state outlawed texting while driving in 2007. Alaska, the District of Columbia, Louisiana, Minnesota, and New Jersey followed suit.

A survey by Harris Interactive last year showed that 92% of Americans think driving while distracted by text messages or e-mail is as dangerous as driving after drinking alcoholic beverages. While 89% of American adults think it should be outlawed, 66% of adults who drive and have used text messages admitted reading them while driving.

The worst offenders are adults between the ages of 18 and 34. They accounted for 64% of adults who admitted to sending text messages while driving.

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