Cell Phone Use Laws

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Is It Illegal to Use a Cell Phone While Driving?

There is no nationwide federal law against cell phone usage while driving, but each state is free to pass its own cell phone laws. Accordingly, there are currently 12 states that completely ban all hand-held cell phones while driving.

However, except for public transportation, such as bus or taxi drivers, laws banning cell phones while driving usually apply only to hand-held cell phones, and not to hands-free cell phone headsets. This is true despite recent evidence that shows there is no discernible difference in the accident rate between the two. Additionally, every cell phone ban has exceptions for using a cell phone during an emergency to contact medical help, the police, and other emergency personal.

What Are Some State Laws on Cell Phone Use While Driving?

Below is a list of generally applicable cell phone use laws. Please check your state’s regulations or consult with an attorney to verify what the exact law is in your state. There two different levels of offenses associated with these bans.

  1. A primary offense allows a police officer can issue a citation even in the absence of some other traffic violation.
  2. A secondary offense, however, requires another traffic violation to have been committed in conjunction with the secondary offense, such as using your cell phone or texting, in order for a police officer to issue a citation.

As you read on, “primary” and “secondary” will be used to identify the type of offense associated with the ban.

Bans on Handheld Cell Phones

Some states (and territories) completely ban the use of handheld cell phones while driving. As of January 1, 2014, states that make using a handheld cell phone while driving a primary offense include:

Bans on All Cell Phone Use

While there is not a single state that bans all cell phone use for all drivers, some ban all cell phone use for specific drivers, such as novice drivers or school bus drivers.

 

State

School Bus Drivers

Novice Drivers

Alabama

 

16; 17 with intermediate license for less than 6 months (Primary)

Arizona

Banned

 

Arkansas

Banned

Under 18 (Secondary)

California

Banned

Under 18 (Secondary)

Colorado

 

Under 18 (Primary)

Connecticut

Banned

Learners Permit and under 18 (Primary)

Delaware

Banned

Learner's permit and intermediate license holders (Primary)

D.C.

Banned

Learners Permit (Primary)

Georgia

Banned

Under 18 (Primary)

Hawaii

 

Under 18 (Primary)

Illinois

Banned

Under 19 (Primary)

Indiana

 

Under 18 (Primary)

Iowa

 

Restricted or Intermediate License (Primary)

Kansas

 

Learner or Intermediate License (Primary)

Kentucky

Banned

Under 18 (Primary) (eff. 7/13/10)

Louisiana

Banned

Yes (Secondary)

Maine

 

Under 18 (Primary)

Maryland

 

Under 18 w/ Learner or Provisional License (Secondary)

Massachusetts

Banned

Under 18 (Primary)

Michigan

Banned

Banned for Level 1 of 2 Licenses (Primary)

Minnesota

Banned

Under 18 w/ Learner or Provisional License (Primary)

Nebraska

 

Under 18 w/ Learners or Provisional License (Secondary)

New Jersey

Banned

Permit or Provisional License (Primary)

North Carolina

Banned

Under 18 (Primary)

North Dakota

 

Under 18 (Primary)

Ohio

 

Under 18 (Primary)

Oklahoma

Banned

 

Oregon

 

Under 18 (Primary)

Rhode Island

Banned

Under 18 (Primary)

South Dakota

 

Learner or Intermediate License

(Secondary)

Tennessee

Banned

Learners Permit or Intermediate License (Primary)

Texas

Banned with passengers under 17

Intermediate Stage, 1st 12 months. (Primary)

Utah

Banned

Under 18 (Primary)

Vermont

 

Under 18 (Primary)

Virginia

Banned

Under 18 (Secondary)

Washington

 

Learner or Intermediate License (Primary)

West Virginia

 

Under 18 with Learner or Intermediate License (Primary)

Wisconsin

 

Learner or Intermediate License (Primary)

Wyoming

 

Under 18 (Primary)

Text Messaging Bans

Text messaging is also seen as a major distraction to drivers and as such many states have enacted partial or even complete bans on texting while driving.

 

State

 

All Drivers

School Bus Drivers

Novice Drivers

Alabama

 

 

16, and 17 with intermediate license for under 6 months

(Primary)

Alaska

Yes

(Primary)

Covered under all driver ban

Arkansas

Yes

(Primary)

Covered under all driver ban

California

Yes

(Primary)

Covered under all driver ban

Colorado

Yes

(Primary)

Covered under all driver ban

Connecticut

Yes

(Primary)

Covered under all driver ban

Delaware

Yes

(Primary)

Covered under all driver ban

D.C.

Yes

(Primary)

Covered under all driver ban

Florida

Yes

(Secondary)

Covered under all driver ban

Georgia

Yes

(Primary)

Covered under all driver ban

Guam

Yes

(Primary)

Covered under all driver ban

Hawaii

Yes

(Primary)

Covered under all driver ban

Illinois

Yes

(Primary)

Covered under all driver ban

Indiana

Yes

(Primary)

Covered under all driver ban

Iowa

Yes

(Secondary)

Covered under all driver ban

Kansas

Yes

(Primary)

Covered under all driver ban

Kentucky

Yes

(Primary)

Covered under all driver ban

Louisiana

Yes

(Secondary)

Covered under all driver ban

Maine

Yes

(Primary)

Covered under al driver ban

Maryland

Yes

(Primary)

Covered under all driver ban

Michigan

Yes

(Primary)

Covered under all driver ban

Minnesota

Yes

(Primary)

Covered under all driver ban

Mississippi

 

Yes

(Primary)

Learner or Provisional License/

What are the Punishments for Improper Cell Phone Use?

Generally, the penalty for driving while using a cell-phone is a traffic fine, and the amounts range from $100 to $600. If you created a dangerous situation with your phone, some states offer up to 30 days in jail.

Police in almost every state will inquire as to cell phone use if you are involved in an accident, and the consequences of that can be very extreme. For example, one man was fined $2,000,000 and sentenced to 6 months in prison for crashing into a truck and killing two people while talking on his cell-phone. Civil and criminal liability for an accident can increase greatly by using a cell phone while driving, so it is important to know the laws of your state.

Should I Contact a Lawyer?

The laws concerning mobile phones are all very new and evolving. If you have been involved with any sort of accident involving cell phone use, or cited by the police for improper use of a cell phone while driving, it is very important to talk to an attorney who is familiar with the current laws of your state immediately to protect your rights and ensure you receive the remedy you deserve.

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Last Modified: 06-04-2014 10:12 AM PDT

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