CELL PHONE AND TEXTING LAWS STATE BY STATE | Dallas, Texas Personal Injury Attorney Blog

CELL PHONE AND TEXTING LAWS STATE BY STATE

By Rachel E. Montes posted in texting laws on Thursday, December 30, 2010

Several cities and towns have enacted local laws prohibiting the use of cell phone devices while driving.  States are soon to follow suit, and many states have enacted legislation restricting or banning cell phone device use altogether.  You need to be aware of these changes in order to drive safe.  If you are hit by someone using a cell phone device while driving, you may have other legal remedies of recovery available to you in light of these laws, such as “negligence as a matter of law” causes of action because the offender actually  broke the law, and that was a proximate cause of the accident or collision.

This chart outlines all state cell phone and text messaging laws. Some local jurisdictions may have additional regulations. Enforcement type is shown in parenthesis.

  • Handheld Cell Phones: 8 states (Calif., Conn., Del., Md., N.J., N.Y., Ore. and Wash.), D.C. and the Virgin Islands prohibit all drivers from using handheld cell phones while driving.
    • Except for Maryland, all laws are primary enforcement-an officer may cite a driver for using a handheld cell phone without any other traffic offense taking place.
  • All Cell Phone Use:No state bans all cell phone use (handheld and hands-free) for all drivers, but many prohibit all cell phone use by certain drivers:
    • Novice Drivers: 28 states and D.C. ban all cell phone use by novice drivers.
    • School Bus Drivers: Bus drivers in 18 states and D.C. may not use a cell phone when passengers are present.
  • Text Messaging:30 states, D.C. and Guam ban text messaging for all drivers. 11 of these laws were enacted in 2010. 26 states, D.C., and Guam have primary enforcement. In the other four, texting bans are secondary.
    • Novice Drivers: An additional 8 states prohibit text messaging by novice drivers.
    • School Bus Drivers: 2 states restrict school bus drivers from texting while driving.
  • Some states such as Maine, N.H. and Utah treat cell phone use and texting as part of a larger distracted driving issue. In Utah, cellphone use is an offense only if a driver is also committing some other moving violation (other than speeding).

Crash Data Collection: Many states include a category for cell phone/electronic equipment distraction on police accident report forms. Recently proposed federal legislation would require states to collect this data in order to qualify for certain federal funding.

Preemption Laws: Many localities have passed their own distracted driving bans. However, some states – such as Fla., Ky., La., Miss., Nev., and Okla. – prohibit localities from enacting such laws.

State Handheld Ban All Cell Phone Ban Text Messaging Ban Crash
Data
School Bus Drivers Novice Drivers All
Drivers
School Bus Drivers Novice Drivers
Alabama 16, and 17 wtih intermediate license <6 months
(Primary)
16, and 17 wtih intermediate license <6 months
(Primary)
Alaska Yes
(Primary)
Covered under all driver ban Yes
Arizona Yes
(Primary)
Arkansas 18 – 20 years old (Primary) Yes
(Primary)
<18
(Secondary)
Yes
(Primary)
Covered under all driver ban Yes
California Yes
(Primary)
Yes
(Primary)
<18
(Secondary)
Yes
(Primary)
Covered under all driver ban Yes
Colorado <18
(Primary)
Yes
(Primary)
Covered under all driver ban Yes
Connecticut Yes
(Primary)
Yes
(Primary)
Learners Permit and <18
(Primary)
Yes
(Primary)
Covered under all driver ban
Delaware Yes
(Primary)
(eff. 1/2/11)
Yes
(Primary)
Learner’s permit and intermediate license holders
(Primary)
Yes
(Primary)
(eff. 1/2/11)
Covered under all driver ban Yes
D.C. Yes
(Primary)
Yes
(Primary)
Learners Permit
(Primary)
Yes
(Primary)
Covered under all driver ban Yes
Florida
Georgia Yes
(Primary)
<18
(Primary)
Yes
(Primary)
Covered under all driver ban Yes
Guam Yes
(Primary)
Covered under all driver ban
Hawaii 1 See footnote
Idaho 2 See footnote
Illinois 3 See footnote Yes
(Primary)
<19
(Primary)
Yes
(Primary)
Covered under all driver ban Yes
Indiana <18
(Primary)
<18
(Primary)
Yes
Iowa Restricted or Intermediate Licenses
(Primary)
Yes
(Secondary)
Covered under all driver ban Yes
Kansas Learner or Intermediate License
(Primary)
Yes
(Primary)
Covered under all driver ban Yes
Kentucky Yes
(Primary)
<18
(Primary)
Yes
(Primary)
Covered under all driver ban
Louisiana Learner or Intermediate License
(regardless of age)
Yes
(Primary)
1st year of licensure
(Primary for <18)
Yes
(Primary)
Covered under all driver ban Yes
Maine 4 <18
(Primary)
<18
(Primary)
Yes
Maryland Yes
(Secondary)
<18 w/ Learner or Provisional License
(Secondary)
Yes
(Primary)
Covered under all driver ban Yes
Massachusetts Yes
(Primary)
<18
(Primary)
Yes
(Primary)
Covered under all driver ban Yes
Michigan 5 See footnote Yes
(Primary)
Covered under all driver ban Yes
Minnesota Yes
(Primary)
<18 w/ Learner or Provisional License
(Primary)
Yes
(Primary)
Covered under all driver ban Yes
Mississippi Learner or Provisional License
(Primary)
Missouri <21
(Primary)
Montana Yes
Nebraska <18 w/ Learners or Provisional License
(Secondary)
Yes
(Secondary)
Covered under all driver ban Yes
Nevada Yes
New Hampshire 6 Yes
(Primary)
Covered under all driver ban
New Jersey Yes
(Primary)
Yes
(Primary)
<21 w/ GDL or Provisional License
(Primary)
Yes
(Primary)
Covered under all driver ban Yes
New Mexico In State vehicles Yes
New York Yes
(Primary)
Yes
(Secondary)
Covered under all driver ban Yes
North Carolina Yes
(Primary)
<18
(Primary)
Yes
(Primary)
Covered under all driver ban
North Dakota Yes
Ohio
Oklahoma Learners Permit or Intermediate License
(Primary)
Yes
(Primary)
Yes
(Primary)
Learners Permit or Intermediate License
(Primary)
Yes
Oregon Yes
(Primary)
<18
(Primary)
Yes
(Primary)
Covered under all driver ban Yes
Pennsylvania Yes
Rhode Island Yes
(Primary)
<18
(Primary)
Yes
(Primary)
Covered under all driver ban Yes
South Carolina 7 See footnote
South Dakota Yes
Tennessee Yes
(Primary)
Learners Permit or Intermediate License
(Primary)
Yes
(Primary)
Covered under all driver ban Yes
Texas 8 Yes, w/ passenger <17
(Primary)
Intermediate Stage, 1st 12 mos.
(Primary)
Yes, w/ passenger <17
(Primary)
Intermediate Stage, 1st 12 mos.
(Primary)
Yes
Utah 9 See footnote Yes
(Primary)
Covered under all driver ban Yes
Vermont <18
(Primary)
Yes
(Primary)
Covered under all driver ban
Virgin Islands Yes Yes
Virginia Yes
(Primary)
<18
(Secondary)
Yes
(Secondary)
Covered under all driver ban
(Primary)
Covered under all driver ban Yes
Washington Yes
(Primary)
Learner or Intermediate Stage
(Primary)
Yes
(Primary)
Covered under all driver ban Yes
West Virginia Learner or Intermediate Stage
(Primary)
Learner or Intermediate Stage
(Primary)
Wisconsin Yes
(Primary)
Covered under all driver ban
Wyoming Yes
(Primary)
Covered under all driver ban Yes
Total 8 + D.C., Virgin Islands
Primary (7)
Secondary (1)
18 + D.C.
All Primary
28 + D.C.
Primary (23 + D.C.)
Secondary (5)
30 + D.C., Guam
Primary (26 + D.C., Guam)
Secondary (4)
2
Both Primary
8
All Primary
34 + D.C., Virgin Islands

1 Hawaii does not have a state law banning the use of handheld cell phones. However, all of the state’s counties have enacted distracted driving ordinances.
2 Idaho has a “Distraction in/on Vehicle (List)” attribute as part of its Contributing Circumstances element, and officers are supposed to list the distractions in the narrative.
3 Illinois bans the use of cell phones while driving in a school zone or in a highway construction zone.
4 Maine has passed a law making it against the law to drive while distracted in the state.
5 In Michigan, teens with probationary licenses whose cell phone usage contributes to a traffic crash or ticket may not use a cell phone while driving.
6 Dealt with as a distracted driving issue; New Hampshire enacted a comprehensive distracted driving law.
7 South Carolina has a Distracted/inattention attribute under Contributing Factors.
8 Texas has banned the use of hand-held phones and texting in school zones.
9 Utah’s law defines careless driving as committing a moving violation (other than speeding) while distracted by use of a handheld cellphone or other activities not related to driving.

Sources: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and State Highway Safety Offices.