Restrictions on cell phone use while driving in the United States
Various laws in the United States regulate the use of mobile phones and other electronics by motorists. Different states take different approaches. Some laws affect only novice drivers or commercial drivers, while some laws affect all drivers. Some laws target handheld devices only, while other laws affect both handheld and handsfree devices.
The laws regulating driving (or distracted driving) may be subject to primary enforcement or secondary enforcement by state, county or local authorities. All State-level cell phone use laws in the United States are of the primary enforcement type—meaning an officer may cite a driver for using a hand-held cell phone without any other traffic offense having taken place—except in some cases involving newer (or "novice"), drivers. In the case of secondary enforcement, a police officer may only stop or cite a driver for a cell phone use violation if the driver has committed another primary violation (such as speeding, failure to stop, etc.) at the same time.
A federal transportation funding law passed in July 2012, known as the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21), provided $17.5 million in grants during fiscal year 2013 for states with primary enforcement laws against distracted driving, including laws prohibiting cell phone use while driving. States with secondary enforcement laws or no laws at all are ineligible to receive this grant funding.
Laws by state
No state bans all cell phone use for all drivers. However, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia (plus Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands) prohibit all drivers from using hand-held cell phones while driving. Thirty-six states and Washington, D.C. ban all cell phone use by newer drivers, while 19 states and Washington, D.C. prohibit any cell phone use by school bus drivers if children are present.
|State||Total handheld device ban applied to:||Any cell phone use by driver prohibited if:||Bus driver use restriction(s)||Texting & Internet Access||Comment|
|Alabama||16 and under, and 17 w/ temporary license or if licensed under six months (primary violation)||texting prohibited (primary)|
|Alaska||totally prohibited||No restrictions on cell phone use|
|Arkansas||18–20 years old (primary violation)||under 18 (secondary violation)||totally prohibited||texting prohibited (primary)||Any cell phone use prohibited in school or construction zones (secondary violation).|
|California||All (primary violation)||under 18 (secondary violation)||totally prohibited (primary)||texting prohibited|
|Colorado||on learner's permit or under 18 (primary violation)||totally prohibited (primary)|
|Connecticut||All (primary violation)||under 18 (primary violation)||totally prohibited|
|Delaware||All (primary violation)||on learner or intermediate license (primary violation)||totally prohibited|
|Florida||Cell phone use allowed while operating a car as long as the sound goes through only one ear.|
|Georgia||All Drivers (primary violation)||Under 18 (primary violation)||Driver totally prohibited unless used for routing communication||Driver totally prohibited, includes video||Driver Allowed to use hands free devices (specific ones) and voice to text with hands free devices and allowed to use permanent mounted GPS, Drivers are allowed to make emergency calls and report hazardous road conditions. Commercial Vehicle Drivers have limited use directly related to their work (GPS or Routing Communication) effective date 1 July 2018.|
|Guam||All (primary violation)|
|Hawaii||All (primary violation)||under 18 (primary violation)||totally prohibited||Statewide law entered into force July 2013; all counties had existing bans on cell phone use. Drivers 18 and older may use hands-free devices.|
|Idaho||No statewide laws enacted; authorities track "distractions" on accident reports.|
|Illinois||All (primary violation)||any driver under 19 (primary violation)||totally prohibited||Any cell phone use prohibited in school or construction zones or within 500 feet of an emergency scene (primary violation).|
|Indiana||under 21 (primary violation)||totally prohibited||totally prohibited||Indiana currently bars adults from texting while driving, but not talking on cell phones-|
|Iowa||on restricted or intermediate license (primary violation)||totally prohibited (primary)||July 1, 2017 updated the texting law to be enforced as a primary reason an officer can stop you. "Texting" is defined as: texting, internet browsing, playing games, and reading social media applications.|
|Kansas||on learner or intermediate license (primary violation)|
|Kentucky||under 18 (primary violation)||totally prohibited|
|Louisiana||Totally prohibited||Totally prohibited||totally prohibited|
|Maine||under 18 (primary violation)||under 18 w/ learner or provisional license (secondary violation)|
|Maryland||all (primary violation)||under 18 w/ restricted learner or intermediate license|
|Massachusetts||under 18 (primary violation)||totally prohibited||Cell phone use allowed as long as one hand is on the wheel at all times.|
|Michigan||level-1 or level-2 license (primary violation)|
|Minnesota||all (primary violation)
as of 08/01/2019
|under 18 w/ learner or provisional license (primary violation)||totally prohibited|
|Nebraska||under 18 w/ learner or intermediate license (secondary violation)|
|Nevada||all (primary violation)|
|New Hampshire||all (primary violation)||totally prohibited||Penalty Schedule:
|New Jersey||all (primary violation)||on permit or provisional license (primary violation).||totally prohibited|
|New Mexico||Local Option by Jurisdiction||on learner or provisional license (primary violation)|
|New York||all (primary violation)|
|North Carolina||under 18 (primary violation)||totally prohibited||texting prohibited (Primary) Internet access okay|
|North Dakota||under 18 (primary violation)|
|Ohio||under 18 (primary violation)|
|Oklahoma||learner or intermediate license holder (primary violation)||totally prohibited|
|Oregon||all (primary violation)||under 18 (primary violation)|
|Pennsylvania||$50 fine for texting while driving.|
|Puerto Rico||all (primary violation)|
|Rhode Island||all (primary violation) 06/01/2018||under 18 (primary violation)||totally prohibited|
|South Carolina||Totally prohibited, but officers must ascertain that a driver is texting rather than using the phone for another purpose.||Authorities can impose fines and track "distractions" on accident reports under Contributing Factors.|
|South Dakota||on learner or intermediate license (secondary violation)|
|Tennessee||All (primary violation)||on learner or intermediate license (primary violation)||totally prohibited||texting prohibited |
|Texas||Driving through school zones||under 18 (primary violation)||totally prohibited||texting prohibited |
|Utah||under 18 (primary violation)||Regulated under distracted driving laws.|
|Vermont||all (primary violation)||under 18 (primary violation) ||totally prohibited (primary)||GPS use of cell phone is allowed if the cell phone is securely mounted and not in the driver's hand
First offense shall be subject to a fine of $100 - $200
Second and subsequent offenses shall be subject to a fine of $250 - $500 if within a 2-year period
|Virgin Islands||all (primary violation)|
|Virginia||under 18 (primary violation)||under 18 (secondary violation)||totally prohibited||texting prohibited||Use of phone for text or email by the driver whilst vehicle is operational on state roads is prohibited. An exception exists for using GPS, dialing a number to make a call, or reporting an emergency.|
|Washington||all (primary violation)||on learner or intermediate license (primary violation)||Texting prohibited|
|Washington, D.C.||all (primary violation)||on learner permit (primary violation)||totally prohibited||totally prohibited|
|West Virginia||all (primary violation)||under 18 w/ learner or intermediate license (primary violation)|
|Wisconsin||Driving through construction zones||on learner or intermediate license (primary violation)||Texting prohibited|
|Wyoming||on learner or intermediate license (primary violation)|
Often, local authorities pass their own distracted driving bans—most include the use of cell phones while driving. Several states (Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Oklahoma) have prohibited localities from enacting their own laws regarding cell phone use.
Cost of distracted driving
A 2014 report from the National Safety Council, which compiles data on injuries and fatalities from 2013 and earlier, concluded that use of mobile phones caused 26% of U.S. car accidents. Just 5% of mobile phone-related accidents in the U.S. involved texting: "The majority of the accidents involve drivers distracted while talking on handheld or hands-free cellphones."
In 2010, the State Farm insurance company stated that mobile phone use annually resulted in: 636,000 crashes, 330,000 personal injuries, 12,000 major injuries, 2,700 deaths, and $43 billion in damages.
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