Texting and driving laws by state
Fact-checked with HomeInsurance.com
Texting while driving causes thousands of accidents and fatalities each year in the United States. Texting and driving is illegal in 48 states and D.C., but specific regulations can vary from state to state. A texting and driving ticket can lead to fines, increased insurance rates, license suspension and even jail time. Preventative measures can be taken to avoid the temptation of texting while driving. Resisting the urge to text and drive could help you avoid the associated penalties and might lower the number of accidents and fatalities in our country.
Texting and driving statistics
Texting and driving is a dangerous activity, and the statistics are frightening.
- According to the CDC, 8 people are killed every day due to distracted driving.
- 2,841 people were killed in 2018, due to distracted driving, and an additional 400,000 people were injured.
- If you remove your eyes from the road for 4.6 seconds at 55 mph, you will drive the length of a football field. A lot can happen in that distance, and if your eyes are not on the road, you can potentially cause an accident.
- Although over 80% of drivers support texting bans, 32% admit to having typed a text or email while driving in the last 30 days.
These statistics show the prevalence of accidents and distracted driving, which includes texting while driving and other cell phone use such as phone calls, checking email, internet usage and even video streaming. Other types of distracted driving include eating, grooming, talking, arguing or adjusting the mirrors, radio or temperature inside the vehicle.
These distractions can be visual (taking your eyes off the road), manual (taking your hands off the wheel), or cognitive (taking your mind off driving). Some distractions, like texting while driving, can be a combination of all three types, making them even more dangerous.
Is texting and driving illegal in all states?
Texting while driving is illegal in 48 states and D.C. but specific regulations and penalties vary by state. Montana and Missouri are the only two states that do not have a statewide ban on texting while driving. However, Missouri does ban drivers 21 and under from texting while driving. Some states allow hand-held phone conversations and some require only hands-free phone use. State regulations vary regarding cell phone usage by young drivers. For example, some states strictly ban all cell phone usage for young drivers. Penalties can vary from fees and fines to license suspension, and tickets could cause an increase in insurance rates.
Any time you cross state lines, you are required to follow the laws of the state you are in, and claiming ignorance will not get you out of a ticket. Therefore, it is wise to be aware of the laws in every state you travel through.
Texting and driving laws by state
Texting and driving is illegal in D.C. and all states except Montana and Missouri. The following chart shows specific regulations, by state, regarding hand-held conversations while driving and the use of cell phones by young drivers, since these regulations vary between states.
Legislation that requires the use of a hands-free device while driving is rapidly changing and additional states are adding this requirement each year.
Some cities in New Mexico (Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Las Cruces, Gallup, Taos, and Espanola) require hands-free cell phone use only while driving within the city limits. However, hands-free use is not a requirement for the entire state of New Mexico.
|State||Hands-free Regulations||Young Driver Cell Phone Use|
|Alabama||N/A||Banned for 16-17 year old drivers holding an intermediate license for under 6 months|
|Arizona||Hands-free use only||Banned for learner’s permit & license holders under 18 years old who have been licensed for under 6 months|
|Arkansas||Hands-free use only||Banned for drivers under 18|
|California||Hands-free use only||Banned for drivers under 18|
|Colorado||N/A||Banned for drivers under 18|
|Connecticut||Hands-free use only||Banned for drivers under 18|
|Delaware||Hands-free use only||Banned for learner’s permit & intermediate license holders|
|District of Columbia||Hands-free use only||Banned for drivers under 18|
|Florida||Must use hands-free in school and work zones||N/A|
|Georgia||Hands-free use only||Banned for drivers under 18|
|Hawaii||Hands-free use only||Banned for drivers under 18|
|Idaho||Hands-free use only||N/A|
|Illinois||Hands-free use only||Banned for drivers & those with learner’s permits under the age of 19|
|Indiana||Hands-free use only||Banned for drivers under 21|
|Iowa||N/A||Banned for learner’s permit & intermediate license holders|
|Kansas||N/A||Banned for learner’s permit & intermediate license holders|
|Kentucky||N/A||Banned for drivers under 18|
|Louisiana||Must use hands-free in signed school zones||Banned for all novice drivers|
|Maine||Hands-free use only||Banned for learner’s permit & intermediate license holders|
|Maryland||Hands-free use only||Banned for drivers under 18|
|Massachusetts||Hands-free use only||Banned for drivers under 18|
|Michigan||N/A||Banned for learner’s permit & intermediate license holders, except Integrated Voice Operating Systems|
|Minnesota||Hands-free use only||Banned for learner’s permit & those who hold a provisional license for under 12 months|
|Nebraska||N/A||Banned for learner’s permit & intermediate license holders under 18|
|Nevada||Hands-free use only||N/A|
|New Hampshire||Hands-free use only||Banned for drivers under 18|
|New Jersey||Hands-free use only||Banned for learner’s permit & intermediate license holders|
|New Mexico||*Hands-free use required in some cities, but not state-wide||Banned for learner’s permit & intermediate license holders|
|New York||Hands-free use only||N/A|
|North Carolina||N/A||Banned for drivers under 18|
|North Dakota||N/A||Banned for drivers under 18|
|Ohio||N/A||Banned for drivers under 18|
|Oklahoma||Hands-free use required by those with learner’s permit and intermediate licenses||N/A|
|Oregon||Hands-free use only||Banned for drivers under 18|
|Rhode Island||Hands-free use only||Banned for drivers under 18|
|South Dakota||N/A||Banned for learner’s permit & intermediate license holders|
|Tennessee||Hands-free use only||Banned for learner’s permit & intermediate license holders|
|Texas||Must use hands-free in signed school zones & property||Banned for drivers under 18|
|Utah||N/A||Banned for drivers under 18|
|Vermont||Hands-free use only||Banned for drivers under 18|
|Virginia||Hands-free use only||Banned for drivers under 18|
|Washington||Hands-free use only||Banned for learner’s permit & intermediate license holders|
|West Virginia||Hands-free use only||Banned for learner’s permit & intermediate license holders under 18|
|Wisconsin||Must use hands-free in highway construction areas||Banned for learner’s permit & intermediate license holders|
How much is a ticket for texting and driving?
Ticket fines vary by state, from $25 up to thousands for the first offense, and fines increase for subsequent offenses. Some states have a “points system,” where different violations earn a certain number of points. If you rack up too many points, your license can be suspended or revoked. Adding a high number of points increases the likelihood of an insurance rate increase or license suspension. Many states have stricter laws and increased penalties for breaking cell phone laws while driving in a school zone, and have more strict regulations for school bus drivers and commercial drivers as well.
Most states consider texting while driving a Primary Law, but a few states consider it a Secondary Law where drivers can only be stopped if texting while committing another traffic violation.
What happens to my insurance after a texting and driving ticket
Insurance rates are based on risk, and insurance companies evaluate the amount of risk it takes to insure a driver based partly upon traffic violations. These violations, including tickets for speeding, texting while driving or traffic accidents can cause insurance rates to rise.
In particular, young drivers are considered a higher risk and are generally more costly to insure, even with no tickets or accidents on record. It is important to discuss texting while driving with teen drivers. Many insurance companies offer a written “contract” online to open the discussion with your teen and to agree to consequences if the contract is broken.
- Texting while driving causes thousands of accidents and fatalities every year.
- Many states have laws surrounding the use of mobile devices while driving.
- You may be ticketed, have your license suspended or even face jail time if you text while driving.
- Insurance premiums may increase if you are ticketed for distracted driving.
We all face the temptation to look at our phones while driving, but it is important to consider the potential costs of distraction. These include the possibility of an accident, the chance of a fatality, the financial impact of a ticket, the inconvenience of a suspended license and the possible increase in insurance premiums. The key to avoiding an accident or the penalties of receiving a ticket for texting while driving is prevention. Send texts before a trip starts, pull over if you need to make a call or send a text or wait until you reach your destination to look at your phone.
When considering the dire consequences of texting and driving, the most important thing to remember is that there is no text or phone call more important than your life and the lives of others.