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Texting and driving laws by state

Fact-checked with HomeInsurance.com

    Article Highlights

    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.

    StateHands-free RegulationsYoung Driver Cell Phone Use
    AlabamaN/ABanned for 16-17 year old drivers holding an intermediate license for under 6 months
    AlaskaN/A N/A
    ArizonaHands-free use onlyBanned for learner’s permit & license holders under 18 years old who have been licensed for under 6 months
    ArkansasHands-free use onlyBanned for drivers under 18
    CaliforniaHands-free use onlyBanned for drivers under 18
    ColoradoN/ABanned for drivers under 18
    ConnecticutHands-free use onlyBanned for drivers under 18
    DelawareHands-free use onlyBanned for learner’s permit & intermediate license holders
    District of ColumbiaHands-free use onlyBanned for drivers under 18
    FloridaMust use hands-free in school and work zones N/A
    GeorgiaHands-free use onlyBanned for drivers under 18
    HawaiiHands-free use onlyBanned for drivers under 18
    IdahoHands-free use only N/A
    IllinoisHands-free use onlyBanned for drivers & those with learner’s permits under the age of 19
    IndianaHands-free use onlyBanned for drivers under 21
    IowaN/ABanned for learner’s permit & intermediate license holders
    KansasN/ABanned for learner’s permit & intermediate license holders
    KentuckyN/ABanned for drivers under 18
    LouisianaMust use hands-free in signed school zonesBanned for all novice drivers
    MaineHands-free use onlyBanned for learner’s permit & intermediate license holders
    MarylandHands-free use onlyBanned for drivers under 18
    MassachusettsHands-free use onlyBanned for drivers under 18
    MichiganN/ABanned for learner’s permit & intermediate license holders, except Integrated Voice Operating Systems
    MinnesotaHands-free use onlyBanned for learner’s permit & those who hold a provisional license for under 12 months
    MississippiN/A N/A
    MissouriN/A N/A
    MontanaN/A N/A
    NebraskaN/ABanned for learner’s permit & intermediate license holders under 18
    NevadaHands-free use only N/A
    New HampshireHands-free use onlyBanned for drivers under 18
    New JerseyHands-free use onlyBanned for learner’s permit & intermediate license holders
    New Mexico*Hands-free use required in some cities, but not state-wideBanned for learner’s permit & intermediate license holders
    New YorkHands-free use only N/A
    North CarolinaN/ABanned for drivers under 18
    North DakotaN/ABanned for drivers under 18
    OhioN/ABanned for drivers under 18
    OklahomaHands-free use required by those with learner’s permit and intermediate licenses N/A
    OregonHands-free use onlyBanned for drivers under 18
    PennsylvaniaN/A N/A
    Rhode IslandHands-free use onlyBanned for drivers under 18
    South CarolinaN/A N/A
    South DakotaN/ABanned for learner’s permit & intermediate license holders
    TennesseeHands-free use onlyBanned for learner’s permit & intermediate license holders
    TexasMust use hands-free in signed school zones & propertyBanned for drivers under 18
    UtahN/ABanned for drivers under 18
    VermontHands-free use onlyBanned for drivers under 18
    VirginiaHands-free use onlyBanned for drivers under 18
    WashingtonHands-free use onlyBanned for learner’s permit & intermediate license holders
    West VirginiaHands-free use onlyBanned for learner’s permit & intermediate license holders under 18
    WisconsinMust use hands-free in highway construction areasBanned for learner’s permit & intermediate license holders
    WyomingN/A N/A

    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.   

    The takeaway

    • 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.

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