distracted driving laws by state

A Parent’s Guide to Distracted Driving Laws by State

Everyone knows that distracted driving is dangerous, but did you know that it’s also illegal in many states? The laws vary from state to state, so it’s important to learn about the laws in your area, and there’s no better time to do so than Teen Driver Safety Week. Here’s a breakdown of the different types of distracted driving laws and where they are currently in effect:

Texting Ban

There are many forms of distracted driving, but texting is by far the most common one. For this reason, many states have prohibited all drivers from texting while behind the wheel. The states that currently have a texting ban for all drivers are:

  •      Alabama
  •      Alaska
  •      Arkansas
  •      California
  •      Colorado
  •      Connecticut
  •      Delaware
  •      Florida
  •      Georgia
  •      Hawaii
  •      Idaho
  •      Illinois
  •      Indiana
  •      Iowa
  •      Kansas
  •      Kentucky
  •      Louisiana
  •      Maine
  •      Maryland
  •      Massachusetts
  •      Michigan
  •      Minnesota
  •      Nebraska
  •      Nevada
  •      New Hampshire
  •      New Jersey
  •      New Mexico
  •      New York
  •      North Carolina
  •      North Dakota
  •      Ohio
  •      Oregon
  •      Pennsylvania
  •      Rhode Island
  •      South Carolina
  •      South Dakota
  •      Tennessee
  •      Utah
  •      Vermont
  •      Virginia
  •      Washington
  •      West Virginia
  •      Wisconsin
  •      Wyoming

Other states have outlawed texting behind the wheel for inexperienced drivers only. In Missouri, texting while driving is only illegal if you are under the age of 21. In Oklahoma and Mississippi, it is illegal for any driver that has a learner’s permit or intermediate license.

distracted driving laws by state

Handheld Device Ban

A texting ban is a step in the right direction to eliminate distracted driving, but it doesn’t prevent drivers from making phone calls, watching videos, or looking at social media. To prevent these distractions, many states have gone even further by banning handheld cell phone use altogether behind the wheel. These states are:

  •      California
  •      Connecticut
  •      Delaware
  •      Hawaii
  •      Illinois
  •      Maryland
  •      Nevada
  •      New Hampshire
  •      New Jersey
  •      New York
  •      Oregon
  •      Vermont
  •      Washington
  •      West Virginia

Similar to the texting ban, many states have prohibited the use of handheld devices for drivers of certain age groups or skill levels only. In Arkansas, drivers between the ages of 18 and 21 are not allowed to use handheld devices. Oklahoma only prohibits drivers with an intermediate license or learner’s permit from using a handheld device. Louisiana drivers cannot use a handheld device if they are under the age of 17 or driving with a learner’s permit or intermediate license.

Handheld and Hands-Free Ban

States that only ban handheld devices allow their drivers to use their phones hands-free. However, there are some states that prohibit certain types of drivers from using both handheld and hands-free devices.

Bus drivers are responsible for their passengers’ safety, which is why many states have enacted laws that prohibit bus drivers from using handheld or hands-free devices. These states include:

  •      Arizona
  •      Arkansas
  •      California
  •      Connecticut
  •      Delaware
  •      Georgia
  •      Illinois
  •      Kentucky
  •      Louisiana
  •      Minnesota
  •      Mississippi
  •      New Jersey
  •      North Carolina
  •      Rhode Island
  •      Tennessee
  •      Texas
  •      Virginia

distracted driving laws by state

A number of states have also banned inexperienced drivers from using handheld and hands-free devices. These states ban drivers under the age of 18 from using handheld or hands-free devices:

  •      Alabama
  •      California
  •      Colorado
  •      Connecticut
  •      Georgia
  •      Hawaii
  •      Indiana
  •      Iowa
  •      Kentucky
  •      Maryland
  •      Massachusetts
  •      Nebraska
  •      New Hampshire
  •      North Carolina
  •      North Dakota
  •      Ohio
  •      Oregon
  •      Rhode Island
  •      Texas
  •      Utah
  •      Vermont
  •      Virginia
  •      West Virginia

Arkansas also prohibits drivers of certain ages from using handheld or hands-free devices, however the age range is 18-20 years old. Other states have chosen to apply the ban of all devices only to drivers that have certain types of licenses, such as learner’s permits, intermediate licenses, probationary licenses, or provisional licenses. These states include:

  •      Delaware
  •      Illinois
  •      Kansas
  •      Maine
  •      Michigan
  •      Minnesota
  •      New Jersey
  •      New Mexico
  •      North Carolina
  •      Ohio
  •      South Dakota
  •      Tennessee
  •      Washington
  •      Wisconsin

Bans in Specific Locations

A handful of states have banned the use of cellphones in specific locations only. For example, drivers in Arkansas cannot use a handheld device when they are in a school zone or road work zone with workers present. In Illinois, all cell phone use is prohibited in construction or school zones, while in Texas, drivers are only prohibited from using handheld devices in school zones.

Some cities and counties have made an effort to prevent distracted driving by passing their own laws. These cities and counties are located in:

  •      Arizona
  •      Missouri
  •      Montana
  •      New Mexico
  •      Ohio
  •      Texas
  •      Wisconsin
  •      Wyoming

If you live in or plan on driving through one of these states, make sure that you check the city and county laws so you know what rules you need to comply with.

General Distracted Driving Laws

Several states have also passed more general laws that give their law enforcement officers the right to determine when a driver should be cited for distracted driving. For instance, officers in Connecticut and Oklahoma can hold drivers accountable for any action that interferes with their ability to safely operate their vehicle. In Utah, driving while distracted is considered careless driving, which is a moving violation.

Keep in mind that the law constantly changes, so make sure that you stay up-to-date with the current laws in your area. When it comes to distracted driving, it’s especially important for parents to teach their new teen drivers how to be responsible. Look for resources like TeenSafe Control to put your child’s phone on PAUSE whenever they are driving.

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