How to Follow Distracted Driving Laws
Distracted driving has become one of the leading causes for car accidents in the United States. As such, most states have put laws into place to reduce the number of related incidents. Distracted driving facts vary from state to state, as do the penalties for breaking these laws. Some states, such as Alaska, have large fines for incidents caused by driving distractions, while other states have no penalties at all. Regardless of the severity of the offense, most of the 50 states have laws in place. For more specific information about your state’s distracted driving laws, please visit your state’s page:
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Distracted driving laws regarding handheld devices include the use of cellular phones, MP3 players, GPS systems and any other electronic device that takes up the use of one of your hands while you drive. Bans on texting and driving are in place in many states, while laws against cell phone use while driving are only in place in a few states. However, drivers are encouraged to use hands-free options to minimize distractions. Texting and driving laws are different in every state, and so are the penalties associated with them.
Texting carries the most penalties for driving distracted, as almost all states have a ban, penalty or some form of enforcement against it. Texting and driving fines encompass the highest distracted driving fines amongst all the states. In addition to fines, texting while driving can incur demerit points on your license and even jail time in some states. Alaska and other states in the Northeast have the most severe consequences associated with texting while driving.
Distracted driving regulations in the following states specifically mention the ban of using a GPS system: Alabama, California, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey and Washington. However, these distracted driving rules allow for GPS devices to be attached to a car’s dashboard or windshield, as long as they are not handled during the drive.
Bans for Novice Drivers
Most states have laws that are meant to stop distracted driving by banning drivers under the age of 18 from using electronic devices while driving. The distracted driving penalty cost is usually higher for those under the age of 18, especially for drivers who only have a learner’s permit. There is usually more enforcement of laws concerning minors in most states, even those who only have partial bans.
Bans for Bus Drivers
There are laws on distracted driving in place for bus drivers who transport minors in almost all 50 states. Texting and the use of handheld devices are completely banned for school bus drivers while they transport children. In Texas, for example, bus drivers are prohibited from text messaging if there is a passenger 17 years of age or younger on the bus. Distracted driving penalties also extend to bus drivers involved in other forms of public transportation.
Primary and Secondary Enforcement
Distracted driving consequences are divided into two categories: primary and secondary offenses. A primary offense means that an officer may pull you over if he or she notices that you are violating a cellphone use ban, even if you have not committed another traffic violation prior to that. The chart below outlines all distracted driving laws that are primary offenses in each state and will note if the law is a secondary offense. Secondary offenses, on the other hand, must be witnessed by an officer in conjunction with a primary violation. A police officer can only enforce a secondary penalty for driving distracted if he or she charges a driver with a primary offense beforehand.
|State||Primary Bans Enforced on:||Texting Penalty||DL Points||Ban on Hand-held Device Use||Ban on Texting||Novice Driver Ban on Texting||Novice Driver Ban on Cell Use (1)||Novice Driver Defined|
|Alabama(2)||All Drivers||$25 fine||2||x||x||x||16-year-old drivers and 17-year-old drivers who have held an intermediate license for less than 6 months|
|Alaska||All Drivers||$10,000 fine & jail time||x||x|
|Arkansas (3)||All Drivers||$100 fine & 10 days in jail||x||x||x||Drivers between 18 and 20 years of age|
|California||All Drivers||$20 fine||x||x (4)||X*||
|Drivers younger than 18|
|Colorado||All Drivers||$50 fine||1||x||x||x||Drivers younger than 18|
|Connecticut||All Drivers||$100 fine||x||x||x||x||Drivers younger than 18|
|Delaware||All Drivers||$50 fine||x||x||x||x||Driver with a learner’s permit or intermediate license|
|D.C.||All Drivers||$100 fine||1||x||x||x||x||Driver with a learner’s permit|
|Georgia||All Drivers||$150 fine||x||x||x||Drivers younger than 18|
|Guam||All Drivers||$100 fine||x||x||x||x|
|Hawaii||All Drivers||$200 fine||x||x||x||x||Drivers younger than 18|
|Idaho||All Drivers||$85 fine||x||x|
|Illinois (6)||All Drivers||$75 fine||x||x||x||x||Drivers younger than 19|
|Indiana||All Drivers||Up to $500||x||x||x||Drivers younger than 18|
|Iowa||All Drivers||$30 fine||
|x||x||Driver with a learner’s permit or intermediate license|
|Kansas||All Drivers||$60 fine||x||x||x||Driver with a learner’s permit or intermediate license|
|Kentucky||All Drivers||$25 fine plus surcharge||x||x||x||Drivers younger than 18|
|Louisiana||All Drivers||$175 fine||x*||x||x||x||Drivers younger than 18, those with a learner’s permit or intermediate license, and those who have held a license for less than one year|
|Maine||All Drivers||$250-$500 fine||x||x||x||Drivers younger than 18|
|Maryland||All Drivers||$500 fine||
|x||x||x||Drivers younger than 18 or those with a learner’s permit|
|Massachusetts||All Drivers||$100 fine||x||x||x||Drivers younger than 18|
|Michigan||All Drivers||$100 fine||X (7)||X (7)||X (7)||Driver with a learner’s permit or intermediate license (level 1 or 2 license)|
|Minnesota||All Drivers||$135 fine||x||x||x||Drivers younger than 18 and those who have held a learner’s license for less than one year|
$500 fine for drivers with a learner’s permit
|x||x||Drivers with a learner’s permit or intermediate license|
|Missouri||Drivers younger than 21||$20.50 fine||x||Drivers younger than 21|
|Nebraska||All Drivers||$200 fine||3||X*||X*||X*||Drivers younger than 18 or those with a learner’s license|
|Nevada||All Drivers||$50 fine||x||x||x||No official distinction|
|New Hampshire||All Drivers||$100 fine||x||x||x||x||Drivers younger than 18|
|New Jersey||All Drivers||$100 fine||x||x||x||x||Driver’s with a permit or provisional license|
|New Mexico (8)||Drivers younger than 18 and those with a permit or provisional license||x||x||x||Drivers younger than 18 and those with a learner’s license|
|New York||All Drivers||$235 fine||3||x||x||x||x|
|North Carolina||All Drivers||$100 fine plus surcharge fee||x||x||x||Drivers younger than 18|
|North Dakota||All Drivers||$100 fine||x||x||x||Drivers younger than 18|
|Ohio||All Drivers||$150 fine||x*||x||x||Drivers younger than 18|
|Oklahoma||All Drivers||$100 fine||x||x||x||Drivers with a learner’s permit or intermediate license|
|Oregon||All Drivers||$250 fine||x||x||x||x||Drivers younger than 18|
|Pennsylvania||All Drivers||$50 fine||x||x|
|Puerto Rico||All Drivers||$50 fine||x||x||x||x|
|Rhode Island||All Drivers||$85 fine||x (9)||x||x||x||Drivers younger than 18|
|South Carolina (10)||All Drivers||$25 fine||x||x|
|South Dakota||All Drivers||$100 fine||X*||X*||X*||Drivers with a learner’s permit or intermediate license|
|Tennessee||All Drivers||$50 fine||x (11)||x||x||x||Drivers with a learner’s permit or intermediate license|
|Texas||All Drivers||x (12)||x||x||x||Drivers younger than 18 and those who have held a license for less than 6 months|
|Utah||All Drivers||$100 fine & possible jail time (13)||x||x||x||Drivers younger than 18|
|Vermont||All Drivers||$156 fine||2||x||x||x||Drivers younger than 18|
|Virgin Islands||All Drivers||x||x||x||x|
|Virginia||All Drivers||$20 fine||x||X*||X*||Drivers younger than 18|
|Washington||All Drivers||$124 fine||x||x||x||x||Drivers with a learner’s permit or intermediate license|
|West Virginia||All Drivers||$100 fine||x||x||x||x||Drivers younger than 18 and those with a learner’s license or intermediate license|
|Wisconsin||All Drivers||$20-400 fine||4||X (14)||x||x||x||Drivers with a learner’s permit or intermediate license|
|Wyoming||All Drivers||$75 fine||x||x||x||Drivers younger than 18|
* Only charged as secondary offense.
- This includes a ban on hands-free devices such as Bluetooth, unless otherwise stated.
- Additional bans on distracted driving are in effect in Birmingham, Decatur, Huntsville, Montgomery, Madison, Vestavia Hills, Gadsden, Jacksonville, Roanoke, Scottsboro, Fairhope, Spanish Fort and Florence.
- Arkansas has banned the use of handheld cellphones while driving in school zones and highway work zones.
- Drivers over 18 may use hands-free voice-integrated systems for text messaging in California.
- In Hawaii, there is a ban in effect for all drivers using handheld devices while driving. Novice drivers (younger than 18) are not allowed to use hands-free devices as well.
- Illinois has banned using cellphones while driving in a school zone or in a highway construction zone.
- There is an exception for hands-free voice-operated systems in Michigan.
- There is a handheld ban for drivers in state vehicles in New Mexico.
- Effective June 1, 2018, all drivers will be banned from using handheld devices while driving in Rhode Island.
- South Carolina has a distracted/inattention attribute under contributing factors. This means it may be listed as a cause to an accident. There are also local laws in place for distracted driving in Camden, Columbia, Walhalla, Clemson, Sumter and West Union.
- Tennessee has banned the use of handheld cell phones while driving though school zones.
- Texas has banned the use of handheld phones and texting in school zones.
- A texting offense becomes a class B misdemeanor in Utah if a driver causes serious bodily harm to another person due to illegally using a handheld device while driving, and this can result in jail time.
- Drivers in highway construction areas are prohibited from using a handheld device in Wisconsin.