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Insurance Institute State by State Laws on Cell Phone and Texting While Driving

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A special thanks to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety for creating a fantastic state by state chart that allows an easy review of the Distracted Driving Laws related to Cell Phone and Texting while Driving throughout the Country. http://www.iihs.org/laws/cellphonelaws.aspx Cellphone and texting laws

March 2012


Talking on a hand-held cellphone while driving is banned in 9 states (California, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, and Washington) and the District of Columbia.

The use of all cellphones by novice drivers is restricted in 30 states and the District of Columbia and the use of all cellphones while driving a school bus is prohibited in 19 states and the District of Columbia.

Text messaging is banned for all drivers in 35 states and the District of Columbia. In addition, novice drivers are banned from texting in 7 states (Alabama, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, and West Virginia) and school bus drivers are banned from text messaging in 3 states (Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Texas).

Many localities have enacted their own bans on cellphones or text messaging. In some but not all states, local jurisdictions need specific statutory authority to do so.

The table and maps below show the states that have cellphone laws, whether they specifically ban text messaging, and whether they are enforced as primary or secondary laws. Under secondary laws, an officer must have some other reason to stop a vehicle before citing a driver for using a cellphone. Laws without this restriction are called primary.

Laws restricting cellphone use and texting
State Hand-held ban Young drivers all cellphone ban Bus drivers all cellphone ban Texting ban Enforcement
Alabama no 16-year-old drivers and 17-year-old drivers who have held an intermediate license for fewer than 6 months no drivers age 16 and 17-year-old drivers who have held an intermediate license for fewer than 6 months primary
Alaska no no no all drivers primary
Arizona no no school bus drivers no primary
Arkansas drivers 18 or older but younger than 21; school and highway work zones drivers younger than 18 school bus drivers all drivers primary: texting by all drivers and cellphone use by school bus drivers; secondary: cellphone use by young drivers, drivers in school and work zones1
California all drivers drivers younger than 18 school and transit bus drivers all drivers primary: hand held and texting laws; secondary: hands-free cellphone use by young drivers1
Colorado no drivers younger than 18 no all drivers primary
Connecticut all drivers drivers younger than 18 school bus drivers all drivers primary
Delaware all drivers learner's permit and intermediate license holders school bus drivers all drivers primary
District of Columbia all drivers learner's permit holders school bus drivers all drivers primary
Florida no no no no not applicable
Georgia no drivers younger than 18 school bus drivers all drivers primary
Hawaii no2 no no no not applicable
Idaho no no no no not applicable
Illinois drivers in construction and school speed zones drivers younger than 19 and learner's permit holders younger than 19 school bus drivers all drivers primary
Indiana no drivers younger than 18 no all drivers primary
Iowa no learner's permit and intermediate license holders no all drivers primary for learner's permit and intermediate license holders; secondary for texting
Kansas no learner's permit and intermediate license holders no all drivers primary
Kentucky no drivers younger than 18 school bus drivers all drivers primary
Louisiana with respect to novice drivers, see footnote3 school bus drivers all drivers primary no all drivers primary
Maryland all drivers learner's permit and provisional license holders younger than 18 school bus drivers (hand-held ban) all drivers secondary; primary for texting
Massachusetts no drivers younger than 18 school bus drivers and passenger bus drivers all drivers primary
Michigan no no no all drivers primary
Minnesota no learner's permit holders and provisional license holders during the first 12 months after licensing school bus drivers all drivers primary
Mississippi no no school bus drivers learner's permit and intermediate license holders and school bus drivers primary
Missouri no no no drivers 21 and younger primary
Montana no no no no not applicable
Nebraska no learner's permit and intermediate license holders younger than 18 no all drivers secondary
Nevada all drivers no no all drivers primary
New Hampshire no no no all drivers primary
New Jersey all drivers learner's permit and intermediate license holders school bus drivers all drivers primary
New Mexico no learner's permit and intermediate license holders no learner's permit and intermediate license holders primary
New York all drivers no no all drivers primary
North Carolina no drivers younger than 18 school bus drivers all drivers primary
North Dakota no drivers younger than 18 no all drivers primary
Ohio no no no no not applicable
Oklahoma learner's permit and intermediate license holders no primary
Oregon all drivers drivers younger than 18 no all drivers primary
Pennsylvania no no no all drivers primary
Rhode Island no drivers younger than 18 school bus drivers all drivers primary
South Carolina no no no no not applicable
South Dakota no no no no not applicable
Tennessee no learner's permit and intermediate license holders school bus drivers all drivers primary
Texas drivers in school crossing zones drivers younger than 18 bus drivers when a passenger 17 and younger is present bus drivers when a passenger 17 and younger is present; drivers in school crossing zones; drivers younger than 18 primary
Utah no5 no no all drivers primary5
Vermont no drivers younger than 18 no all drivers primary
Virginia no drivers younger than 18 school bus drivers all drivers secondary; primary for school bus drivers
Washington all drivers learner's permit and intermediate license holders no all drivers primary
West Virginia no drivers younger than 18 who hold either a learner's permit or an intermediate license no drivers younger than 18 who hold either a learner's permit or an intermediate license primary
Wisconsin no no no all drivers primary
Wyoming no no no all drivers primary


1The laws in Arkansas and California prohibit police from stopping a vehicle to determine if a driver is in compliance with the law. Clearly, that language prohibits the use of checkpoints to enforce the law, but it has been interpreted as the functional equivalent of secondary provisions that typically state the officer may not stop someone suspected of a violation unless there is other, independent, cause for a stop.

2Hawaii does not have a state law banning cellphones or text messaging. However, all Hawaii counties have enacted ordinances addressing distracted driving.

3In Louisiana, all learner's permit holders, irrespective of age, and all intermediate license holders are prohibited from driving while using a hand-held cellphone and all drivers younger than 18 are prohibited from using any cellphone. Effective April 1, 2010 all drivers, irrespective of age, issued a first driver’s license will be prohibited from using a cellphone for one year. The cellphone ban is secondary for novice drivers age 18 and older.

4In Oklahoma, learner's permit and intermediate license holders are banned from using a hand-held electronic device while operating a motor vehicle for non-life-threatening emergency purposes.

5In 2007, Utah defined careless driving as committing a moving violation (other than speeding) while distracted by use of a handheld cellphone or other activities not related to driving. IIHS reported this as the functional equivalent of a secondary law. 2012 Utah law states that a person is not prohibited from using a handheld wireless device while operating a moving motor vehicle when making or receiving a telephone call.

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