Responsibility

Not too long ago, we wondered in this space if New Hampshire law enforcement officials had forgotten to enforce the hands-free law. The law forbids using a phone while driving unless one could do so without holding the phone in one’s hands – thus the term “hands-free.”

We are happy report that on Feb. 4, police in Wilton issued a summons to a Lyndeborough resident for a violation of the hands-free law. The police log does not name the driver, but the point still is made:

Talking and/or texting while driving is dangerous.

Seriously, anyone who talks or texts while driving could end up injured or dead.

The following statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are alarming and provide compelling reasons why hands-free and distracted driving laws must not only exist, but also be enforced.

In 2015, 3,477 people were killed in crashes involving a distracted driver. An additional 391,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers.

Ten percent of fatal crashes, 15 percent of injury crashes and 14 percent of all police-reported motor vehicle traffic crashes in 2015 were reported as distraction-affected accidents.

Nine percent of all drivers ages 15-19 involved in fatal crashes were reported as distracted at the time of the accidents. This age group has the largest proportion of drivers who were distracted at the time of fatal wrecks. The current statistic is 11 teens die every day as a result of texting while driving.

That’s alarming and preventable. Sadly, people continue to ignore the law and the warnings. According to an AAA poll, 94 percent of teen drivers acknowledge the dangers of texting and driving, but 35 percent admit they do it anyway. We guess the numbers of teens who actually engage in this dangerous practice likely are much higher.

This epidemic can and must stop. Driving through Wilton or any town in this area, there are plenty of places someone could pull over, turn off the car engine, and text or talk to one’s heart is content without endangering a life – either their own or someone else’s.

For those who must hold onto something while driving, let’s hope it is responsibility behind the wheel versus a phone or other distraction. And for those who chose to ignore this, we hope local law enforcement will continue to send a very clear message: Anyone who willfully violates the hands-free law will be subject to penalty.

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