Today, New Hampshire Cops Have New Excuse for Revenue Collection

If you use your mobile phone while driving, New Hampshire cops can shake you down for $100 on “first offense.”

I read a pretty amazing editorial in the New Hampshire Union-Leader yesterday: “The cellphone ban: Fines for endangering no one.”

Beginning tomorrow, it will be illegal to “use” any handheld device while in the driver’s seat of a vehicle that is on a public road in New Hampshire. You do not have to be driving to get a ticket under this absurd, knee-jerk reaction of a law.

What does this mean for drivers? It means that if you simply reach down to check a text message or Google Maps while stopped at a red light, you could be pulled over and fined $100 ($250 for a second offense, $500 for a third). It means that if you reach over to press two buttons — “answer” and “speaker” — you could be pulled over and fined. It means that if you tap your traffic app — or the state of New Hampshire’s own emergency alert app — to find a route out of the traffic jam in which you are stuck, you can be pulled over and fined.

Drivers can expect no leniency. “Troopers and departments around the state will be enforcing this law firmly and robustly,” Lt. Matt Shapiro, special services commander for the New Hampshire State Police, said last week.

What makes this news interesting to me is that New Hampshire does not require drivers or passengers to wear seatbelts! My understanding is that there is real evidence that using a seat belt can save lives, yet the New Hampshire legislature does not require one to be used. The state defied the Federal government on that issue and has remained free.

[See also, “Texting-While-Driving Laws are Just Money-Making Measures.”]

In fact, as the editorial points out, there is no reason to believe that the ban will decrease traffic injuries.

[A] Rand Corp. and Colorado School of Mines study in 2013 examined California traffic accidents before and after that state’s 2008 cellphone ban and concluded “we find no evidence of a reduction in accidents state-wide due to the ban.”

A Texas A&M study of National Highway Traffic Safety data “suggests that handheld bans might not reduce accidents,” a University of Chicago economist wrote in The New York Times last year.

But I’m sure revenues brought in by cops increase when such bans are put in place!

One astute commenter on the editorial wrote,

The advocates have no time to study whether they are actually doing good, as they can cultivate their positive opinion of themselves just for being part of this “pro-safety” campaign, for helping change America’s focus from making good things happen to keeping bad things from happening. Indeed the law might not have any safety effect–but it will reinforce the notion of the trooper as an adversary, told to look inside your car for signs of unfashionable values. The insiders who greased the passage of this law may view it as a test to see if New Hampshire has been sufficiently tranquilized to be ready for laws on seat belts, motorcycle helmets, and a state income tax.

Sounds about right.