RSA 265-79-c takes effect on July 1, 2015. The new law prohibits New Hampshire drivers from using “any hand-held mobile electronic device capable of providing voice or data communication” while driving or while temporarily halted in traffic, at a stop sign or red light, or any other momentary delay. “Use” is defined broadly, and includes calls, reading or composing text messages or emails, accessing the internet on a device, and inputting information into a GPS. Drivers will still be permitted to use their devices in emergencies or to call 911 and may use a Bluetooth or other hands-free function to send or receive information while driving, provided that the driver does not have to divert their attention from the road ahead. The exception for hands-free devices only applies to adult drivers, as teens under the age of 18 are not permitted to use electronic devices while driving except to report emergencies. The statute carries fines for violations of the law, which increase in amount for each offense.
Although many employers have already implemented policies barring use of devices on the road, it is important to review and update cell phone or electronic device policies to confirm compliance with this change in the law. An employer’s restriction on employees’ use of electronic devices while driving should be consistent with safety and require compliance with the law in the state of use. Employers that do not currently have cell phone or electronic device use policies should implement such policies now. Given the trend across the country to adopt similar legislation, those companies which have drivers engaged in interstate travel should confirm that the employees are also aware of the laws which govern driving in other states.
In addition to the fines which may be imposed upon employees who violate the law, businesses may be subject to liability for accidents or injuries which occur as a result of unsafe driving practices.