Texting and Driving Laws
Laws on texting and driving
Laws on texting and driving vary from state to state. Almost all states agree, and show by their legislative actions, that texting and driving is not something that drivers should be doing. But as you’ll see, states differ in the severity of laws, and in the ways they can enforce text-free driving. As new studies are published each year, they continue to highlight that basically everything besides focusing on driving ends up negatively impacting the safety of our roadways. There is no substitute for pure focus.
One distinction, aside from a law being in place or not, is between primary and secondary laws.
- Primary Law – A police officer can ticket the driver without the need of any other traffic violation.
- Secondary Law – An officer can only issue the ticket if the driver was pulled over for another violation (ex. “Your tail light was out…”)
States that have Banned Texting and Driving
As of March 10th, 2016:
- 46 states have a law banning texting and driving. 41 of these states consider it a primary offenses, and 5 consider it a secondary offense.
- 14 states prohibit all drivers from using hand-held cell phones while driving.
Laws Against Hand-held Cell Phone Use
As of March 10th, 2016:
- 14 states, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands prohibit all drivers from using hand-held cell phones while driving.
- 37 states and Washington D.C. ban all cell phone use by novice or teen drivers.
- 20 states and D.C. prohibit any cell phone use for school bus drivers.
Source: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety 2016.
2017 Texting and Driving Laws by State
For a complete breakdown of the laws by state, check out this useful listing from the Governor’s Highway Safety Organization.
Consequences of Texting and Driving
Aside from the obvious ticket you might receive for texting and driving in states that ban it, there are many other consequences. Not only are you increasing the risk of a collision, but the act of doing it will typically magnify a judge’s sentencing, and in some cases texting and driving is considered reckless driving.
Fines for Texting and Driving by State (from 2013)
Other consequences of texting and driving:
- Fines – Alaska has the highest penalty of up to $10,000 and a year in prison for the first offense. This is a stark comparison to California’s $20 fine per offense punishment.
- Driving License Points – Some states that use a point system can have your score negatively impacted for texting and driving.
- Higher Insurance Premiums – Insurance companies have access to driving records, so a texting-and-driving ticket will keep costing you even after you’ve paid it.
- Road Safety Classes – Judges can order offenders to attend safe driving classes which can cost you additional time and money.
Do Texting and Driving Laws Work?
There has been no downward trend in the statistics of distracted driving collisions since the advent of laws against texting and driving. Studies have also shown that hands-free devices don’t actually reduce the amount of distraction. So while the laws against hand-held devices have more people using hands-free, they are no less distracted.