PELHAM, N.H. – A Massachusetts man may be the first person in the state to be arrested for texting behind the wheel, which became illegal Jan. 1.
Lt. Gary Fisher said Stephen Judd, 20, of Dracut, Mass., was texting on his phone while traveling down Bridge Street on Monday morning, in plain sight of an officer. Officers later learned Judd was driving with a suspended license, he said.
A texting-while-driving violation wouldn't usually lead to an arrest, Fisher said, but police weren't going to let Judd drive away without a license.
"From what I understand, this was blatant. The officer observed it blatantly; the phone literally was at the steering wheel level," he said.
Well. If it was at steering-wheel level, he was at least being careful, right? Better than texting with the phone on his lap, right? We continue.
"In New Hampshire you can be arrested for a violation. It's not our normal practice to arrest people for violation offenses of that nature, like speeding or driving without an inspection sticker."
New Hampshire is the "Live Free or Die" state, eh? Doesn't seem like it.
Look, I'm not defending the practice of texting while driving. People should always be concentrating on the road in front of them — for their safety and the safety of others. And I got a little suckered into posting this because The Drudge Report made it seem like Fisher was arrested solely for texting. I imagine the suspended license is the main reason why the police took the extraordinary step to haul him into the police station.
But through this action, the cops elevated "texting-while-driving" as definitive "extra" to bring someone into the hoosegow on a traffic stop — on par with having an outstanding warrant or a load of drugs in the trunk. Is that appropriate?
What matters in traffic enforcement is reckless driving. That certainly should be policed and punished. But was this guy really driving recklessly? Was his fiddling with his cell phone any different in substance than changing the station on the radio? Would he have been arrested for arguing with his wife or the kids in the back seat?