By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — Police Chief Chris said Wednesday that during the year since the Legislature forbid motorists from holding a mobile device while driving except to call emergency services, the Police Department has issued 237 warnings and 45 citations.
This week, The Nashua Telegraph reported that the New Hampshire State Police stopped 6,091 drivers for violating the law between Jan. 1 and June 19 this year and issued 3,215 citations and 2,876 warnings.
Adams said that in the first several months after the law took effect in July 2015, Laconia Police were more likely to issue a warning rather write a citation, with the intention of educating rather than punishing motorists, who may not have known about the prohibition. Since then, he said, "The decision is left to the discretion of the officer. Our goal," the chief continued, "is to change whatever behavior causes the officer to stop a vehicle."
However, Adams said he believes that after initially complying with the new law more and more drivers are reverting to what he called "their bad habits," either by sending text messages or making phone calls while driving. "You see them at traffic light looking into their laps and not moving when the signal changes," he said, "or holding a phone to their ear while driving."
Adams said that the department has received a grant from the New Hampshire Highway Safety Agency, which administers and distributes federal funds, which is earmarked for enhanced enforcement of the "hands free" law.
The Nashua Telegraph reported that according to the New Hampshire Department of Safety distracted driving was the second or third leading cause of fatal collisions for 19 years before falling to sixth place in 2015. The data for 2015 includes the six months before the law became effective when an intensive effort was made to inform the public about the pending law. In the first six months of this year distracted driving has caused only one of 55 traffic deaths., compared to six of the 103 fatal collisions in 2016.
According to data collected by the Department of Safety distracted or inattentive driving caused 13 of 120 fatalities in 2010, 14 of 84 in 2011, 10 of 101 in 2012, 14 of 124 in 2013 and 13 of 89 in 2014. Impaired driving is the leading cause of fatalities, representing between 30 percent and 40 percent of deaths during the last 20 years.
Adams said that motorists distracted by using their mobile devices, whether to text messages, send emails or dial phones, present other motorists, pedestrians and cyclists at risk and stressed that officers will enforce the law.
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