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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.

But it’s worth it to save lives, right? Well, 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.

The law will create violators of people who do nothing dangerous. Welcome to the new “Live free or die” state.

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