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Another View - Mark Warden: NH has just made driving more costly and less convenient

May 22. 2014 11:22PM

THIS YEAR’S New Hampshire Legislature has launched an attack on anyone who drives an automobile. The Democrat-led House passed two major pieces of legislation that will adversely affect commuters as well as tourists visiting the Granite State.

The first is a four-cent (23 percent) increase in the gasoline tax. Driving to work, taking the kids to school and going on a weekend trip will all be more expensive. Then there is the impact it will have on groceries and other products because of the increased cost of transporting goods to market. Trucking and other transportation businesses will pass along higher expenses to consumers.

This gas tax increase will have negative effects on an already sluggish economy. While many agree that the condition of many roads is lacking, it’s not for lack of funding. The problem with this new legislation is that the money is diverted to other uses that benefit drivers in other parts of the state (such as the I-93 widening project). Only 12 percent of the new revenue is earmarked for grants to municipalities.

Perhaps the most ill-conceived and anti-liberty law passed this year is the new ban on using your cellphone or smartphone while behind the wheel. This is terrible legislation on a number of levels.

First, it’s virtually impossible to enforce. Expecting a policeman to discern whether you are holding a phone — as opposed to an mp3 player or other handheld electronic device not banned by law — is untenable. It puts the officer in an uncomfortable and ridiculous position of spying on drivers to see what they are holding in their hand instead of attending to more pressing police business.

This bill also prohibits the use of electronic GPS devices unless mounted to your dashboard. The new prohibition will lead to more, not fewer, problems. It’s foolish to think that using a fold-out map or spiral-bound atlas to find your destination is somehow safer than technology, much of which gives audible commands.

This legislation is feel-good policy at its worst. Though texting while driving is demonized, many other time-saving uses of smart phones, including voice calls, are caught in the wide net of illegality. It’s “throwing out the baby with the bathwater” to ban all use of hand-held devices by drivers because you are offended by somebody sending a text. The vast majority of drivers have been operating their vehicles quite safely for years while using car radios, GPS devices and cell phones.

Salespeople, businesswomen and men, educators, retirees, and even emergency response personnel — including police — are prohibited from using handheld cell phones under this new law foisted on the people by big-government members of the House and Senate. Reduced productivity and less leisure time will be the result.

Democrat Gov. Maggie Hassan signed the bill into law, knowing full well that there are already reasonable laws on the books against texting while driving and against distracted driving.

So-called progressives in the Legislature have an exuberant propensity for expanding government, regardless of the costs and without regard to the erosion of personal freedoms in this state. As far as these nanny-state legislators are concerned, if you drive, you are a danger to others and you must be restricted and controlled.

Rep. Mark Warden is a Republican from Goffstown.

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