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Tips for avoiding a distracted driving accident—and why that’s so important
New Hampshire has strict laws against any type of distraction while driving. It’s not all about texting and phones.
We tend to think of distracted driving as being specifically texting while driving. That’s a huge issue, to be sure, but it’s not the only form of distracted driving that can cause an accident.
In fact, the New Hampshire Insurance Department reported that in 2020, it was estimated that distracted driving accounted for nearly one-third of all crashes in the state. Out of that 30% of distracted driving crashes, portable electronic mobile device-related crashes were 11%.
Regardless of whether it’s because of texting, applying makeup, reading a map, tending to a child passenger, or any other distraction… these types of accidents have one thing in common: They were preventable. The driver made a decision in the moment to engage in an activity that took their mind off driving, and it could cost them or an innocent victim their life or leave them seriously injured.
Was it worth it?
What is distracted driving?
Distracted driving can be manual, visual or cognitive.
Manual: Any activity that takes your hands off the steering wheel. This could include eating, smoking, reaching for an object, manipulating the radio or other dashboard controls, applying makeup, shaving, etc.
Visual: Anything that takes your eyes off the road. This might be looking at your phone or other device, viewing something outside of the car (like rubbernecking an accident), or interacting visually with a passenger.
Cognitive: Anything that takes your brain off the task of driving. This could be daydreaming (being lost in your own thoughts), a conversation with a passenger, a child in the back seat, or an external stimulus like a siren outside your vehicle.
One reason why mobile phone use contributes to so many distracted driving crashes is because it often simultaneously involves all three types of distracted behavior.
This list of distractions is not exhaustive; they’re examples. Anything that takes your complete focus off driving is a distraction.
Causes of distracted driving accidents
We know that texting while driving is dangerous. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has said that sending or reading a single text takes an average of 5 seconds. In those 5 seconds, a person driving 55 miles per hour can travel the entire length of a football field. In essence, you’ve driven the length of that football field with your eyes closed.
Some examples of activities that are included in distracted driving are:
- Using a mobile phone or electronic device in any way (not just for texting or talking)
- Eating or drinking
- Passengers (making noise or behaving in a distracting way)
- Hair brushing, applying makeup, shaving, or other personal grooming
- Reading or viewing paper maps
- Using a GPS or other navigation system
- Using other dashboard controls (adjusting heat or cooling, or other functions)
- Adjusting the radio or CD player
- Loud music
- Outside distractions (something happening outside your vehicle)
But here’s another fact that you might not have considered:
The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety says that a child is 4 times more distracting than an adult passenger, and an infant is 8 times more distracting.
Tips for reducing distractions from children in the car:
- Always have your child properly restrained in the back seat.
- Your child’s harness straps should be worn snugly and your child must stay in their seat.
- If your child gets out of their car seat or belt, pull over and stop the car as soon as you can do so safely. You should not put the car back in motion until the child is safely restrained.
- If your child continues to remove their harness straps, there are products that provide ways to fasten belts in the back so the child can’t loosen or remove them.
- Allow your child to have soft toys or books in the car so they can be occupied.
- Try playing children’s music or stories for them to listen to.
- Stop often so kids can get out and stretch their legs (encourage them to “get their sillies out”).
New Hampshire distracted driving laws
New Hampshire makes distracted driving a primary law. That means you can be pulled over if an officer sees you engaged in an activity that they perceive as distracting while you’re behind the wheel. You do not have to have committed any other infraction to be pulled over for distracted driving.
By contrast, a secondary law is one that allows you to be ticketed only if you’ve already been stopped for a separate offense, like speeding or running a red light.
Here are a few key New Hampshire distracted driving laws you should know:
1. A driver may not use a handheld electronic device while driving.
This includes using your phone for texting, GPS, internet, or phone calls.
2. Hands-free devices are permitted.
You may use a device that’s connected to the Bluetooth system in your car.
3. Drivers who are under 18 may not use either handheld or hands-free devices.
A young driver under 18 may not use any type of electronic device.
4. Handled electronic devices are prohibited in school and work zones.
This includes phones and GPS devices for all drivers.
5. The fines for violating these laws include a fine of $100-$250 for a first offense.
Fines can be up to $500 for subsequent violations, along with license suspension.
How is liability assigned for a distracted driving crash?
A person is negligent if they fail to take reasonable care to avoid causing injury to others. In the context of a car accident, each driver has a duty to every other road user — other drivers, pedestrians, bicyclists, etc.
When a person violates that duty by driving in a way that’s not reasonable — by, for example, speeding, failing to follow traffic signals, failing to pay attention, using poor judgment, or other things (like distracted driving) — they are negligent.
New Hampshire is an at-fault insurance state, which means that the person who was negligent (liable for the accident) is responsible for paying for the injured person’s expenses related to the accident.
If it’s clear that the other driver caused the accident, it might not matter why for the purposes of a personal injury lawsuit.
If the person was texting, they might face traffic infraction tickets or fines, but that is unrelated to your lawsuit as an injured person.
For instance, if a person drives through a red light and hits you, they would be negligent for going through the light, regardless of what they were doing at the time. However, their level of distraction could become relevant if you’re seeking a high amount of damages for a severe injury or for a wrongful death because it could indicate gross negligence or recklessness.
Damages for a distracted driving accident
For any car accident, you can recover damages that include:
- Medical treatment, including doctor or hospital visits, emergency services and/or ambulance transport, prescription medications, diagnostic testing, surgery, etc.
- Assistive devices, prosthetics, or ongoing therapies
- Lost wages, including future lost earning capacity
- Household functions (cleaning, cooking, childcare, etc.)
- Wrongful death, if you lost a family member in a fatal car or truck accident
Insurance policies do not cover mental anguish, pain and suffering, or other non-economic losses (that is, losses that don’t have a specific monetary value). If you believe you should be compensated for these things, you should speak with a personal injury lawyer about filing a lawsuit.
10 safe driving tips to avoid distracted driving
Distracted driving affects everyone on the road — both the distracted driver and other road users. If you’re the driver, here are some distracted driving prevention tips and advice:
- Never hold your phone in your hand. If you need to use it as your GPS, mount it to the dashboard so you can see the map without taking your eyes off the road. Turn off other notifications so you’re not seeing other banners or pop-up notifications on the map while you’re driving.
- Silence your phone before getting in the car.
- It’s not just about texting — don’t use any apps or social media while driving. If you need to send a text or look at something, pull over where it’s safe to do so.
- Don’t text or call someone if you know they’re likely to be driving.
- If you can’t resist looking at your phone when it buzzes, keep it somewhere you can’t get it, like in the back seat or trunk, so that you’re not tempted to sneak a peek. Some phones now have a Do Not Disturb While Driving function. If yours does, it can be a useful way to avoid being distracted.
- Don’t eat or drink while driving.
- If you listen to music or podcasts from your phone while driving, queue your selections before you go so you don’t have to touch your phone while behind the wheel.
- Don’t allow your passengers to be a distraction.
- If you drop something on the floor of the car, either leave it there until you’ve reached your destination or pull over to retrieve it.
- Regardless of what’s happening outside the car, don’t use your phone to take videos while driving. If you feel like recording traffic is useful, purchase a separate dash cam that can record without driver intervention.
What to do after a distracted driving crash
There are two reasons why you might need or want to file a New Hampshire car accident lawsuit:
- The amount of damages exceeds the at-fault driver’s insurance policy limits; or
- The insurance companies can’t reach an agreement on liability or damages.
If you can’t recover the amount of compensation you believe you deserve for these or other reasons, you can (and should) call a qualified, experienced New Hampshire personal injury lawyer.
See our guide Choosing a personal injury attorney.