Drivers Rush To Comply As N.H.'s Hand-Held Cell Phone Ban Set To Take Effect

Jun 30, 2015

Credit Pat Wellenbach, The Associated Press

On Wednesday, New Hampshire becomes the 15th state to ban the use of hand-held cell phone devices while driving.

But despite months of warnings from state officials, car dealers say they're seeing a rush of drivers coming in last-minute to make sure they're in compliance.

Ron O'Connor Jr. is a service director at Irwin Automotive Group in Laconia.

He joined NHPR's Morning Edition to talk about the impact at his dealership.

Tell me what you’ve been hearing over the past few days and weeks.

The last few days and weeks we’ve had a quite a few phone calls and customers stopping by to make sue their phone is compatible with their system and also to be sure they have the correct set ups and they understand exactly how to use it.

We also offer a technology night, the second Thursday of every month, where customers can come in and have a one-on-one session with one of our experts in the technology field. We also welcome anybody to stop by the dealership to be sure they’re all set and the phone is correctly hooked up to their vehicle system.

What kind of turnouts have you been seeing for those technology nights?

Technology nights will vary depending on the demand of the customers, but lately we’ve had a few extra people showing up with the law coming into effect on July 1. Really though we do accept customers in any given time for assistance with the systems just because obviously it’s a critical time coming up and we don’t want any of our customers or anyone at all getting stopped for not knowing how to use the system.

Some of the issues we run into are sometimes the phones themselves may not be compatible with the vehicle’s system. So we assist customers in finding a phone that they may be able to go order at their local Verizon store or US Cellular store that is actually compatible with their vehicle.

Has there been a lot of education? What are the common or misconceptions among drivers about what they’re hearing about the law?

I’m not sure there’s too much confusion on it. I think the bigger issue is some people have had the technology in their cars for years and never used it. They just weren’t comfortable with it or they just didn’t understand it, so obviously New Hampshire has been telling them for quite a while now this is coming up; somebody said it’s been about six months they’ve been warning people. Just like everything else, people wait until the last minute and we’ll do our best to accommodate every single person who comes through the door.

So you’re expecting a bit of a rush in the day or two before the law goes into effect?

Yes, I do expect that. We have plenty of technicians and our service riders know how to pair phones also, so we we’re ready for the onslaught.

Is the sense you’re getting from customers is that this is something they’re in agreement with or something they’re doing because they have to?

Some people I’m sure are very upset they even have to use it, but I personally have been using it for a while now and I see it as a huge safety feature. When you have your hand off the wheel and the phone up to your ear, there’s the distraction plus you don’t have full control of your vehicle. It makes perfect sense to me. I wish they’d come up with a technology where if your car is moving more than two miles an hour, you can’t text. I see more people texting than I do anything else. The new law will hopefully help eliminate the texting issue. I think texting is almost as dangerous as driving intoxicated, if not more so.