Thomas McNeil, 57, of Belmont was ticketed for driving this minivan with the contents of his condo stacked on top. (Courtesy NH State Police)
Belmont man was at the wheel of the vehicle
By ADAM DRAPCHO, LACONIA DAILY SUN
BELMONT — While social media users have been bemused by photos from the New Hampshire State Police of a Belmont resident driving a minivan with enough housewares to furnish a two-bedroom condo strapped to its roof, Belmont Police Lt. Richard Mann said his department sees – and writes tickets for – dangerous driving on a daily basis.
A press release from State Police reported that the now-notorious minivan was stopped in Londonderry in the northbound lane of Route 93 at 6:37 a.m. on Wednesday. The driver, Thomas McNeil, 57, was cited for negligent driving and driving an uninspected vehicle. Photos of the vehicle show a pile of items taller than the vehicle itself strapped to the roof and rear, including furniture, lamps, rakes, shovels and boxes, secured with a web of rope and electrical cords.
“The 2003 Honda Odyssey was stopped in order to prevent a potential traffic crash due to the many items attached to the outside of the vehicle,” State Police reported. As the state trooper escorted the tow truck and minivan off of the highway, one of the items fell into the roadway.
Images of the vehicle sparked derisive comments by the hundreds when the State Police posted them to Facebook. But, said Lt. Mann, drivers routinely engage in behaviors that increase their risk of a collision. Often, that behavior is allowing their attention to be removed from the road ahead and instead fixed on something inside the vehicle.
“What we usually see more is (drivers) letting their pets run around inside of the car,” said Mann. Distractions inside the car – such as children or unrestrained pets – can cause the driver to look away for just a moment, and, on the Lakes Region’s curving roads, that moment is all that it takes to drift toward oncoming traffic.
“There’s a lot going on inside the vehicle,” said Mann. “When you put kids and dogs inside the car, it changes the dynamic of what’s going on inside the car.”
Increasingly common this year, said Mann, is the use of phones and other hand-held devices by a driver. Though the practice has been outlawed for two years, he has seen old habits return.
“We have seen a resurgence of people on the phone – and I find it’s the older people that did this before it was illegal,” Mann said. Don’t expect seniority to garner leniency, though. At 50 miles per hour, vehicles cover a lot of ground while the driver is distracted by operating a phone. “We have nearly zero tolerance for it. Unless it’s an emergency, we’re giving a ticket.”
Mann isn’t exaggerating. Since the beginning of the calendar year, department has written 149 tickets for use of hand-held devices, amounting to more than $19,000 in fines.
Another behavior that is sure to catch a ticket in Belmont is speeding, and especially in the work zone on Route 106.
“We are giving out very expensive tickets,” said Mann. The minimum fine for speeding in an active work zone is $250, and the tickets can rise to as much as $500, depending on the speed, Mann said. But, with changing traffic patterNs and road surfaces, and the need for flaggers to occasionally stop traffic, those lowered speeds are there for everyone’s well-being, he noted.
“The goal is safety. We don’t want to go out there and write tickets, unfortunately, there’s no other recourse,” he said.
State police stopped this overloaded van in Londonderry after it was spotted on I-93 Wednesday morning. (Courtesy NH State Police)
- Written by Adam Drapcho
- Category: Local News
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