• Home
  • Traffic
  • Distracted Driving Laws in the U.S.: What You Need to Know About Texting and Driving

Distracted Driving Laws in the U.S.: What You Need to Know About Texting and Driving

what states is it illegal to text and drive

Distracted driving due to cell phone use and texting while driving is a growing problem across the United States. With ever-rising mobile device use, more drivers are taking their eyes off the road to check notifications, talk, and text. This distracted driving epidemic has led many states to implement laws banning handheld cell phone use and texting for drivers. Continue reading to learn about the current distracted driving laws, texting while driving bans, and fines you could face if caught using your phone behind the wheel.

Why Is Distracted Driving Such a Big Problem in the U.S.?

Distracted driving has become one of the most significant dangers on U.S. roads today. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that distracted driving causes over 400,000 injuries and 3,000 deaths per year. Furthermore, drivers are 23 times more likely to crash if texting behind the wheel. With the rise of smartphones and constant connectivity, more motorists are driving distracted, escalating accidents, injuries, and fatalities.

Over the last two decades, many states have implemented laws to combat distracted driving. However, using a cell phone while driving remains prevalent across the country. According to surveys, most U.S. drivers admit to talking on the phone, texting, or browsing social media while operating a vehicle despite knowing the risks. With distracted driving continuing to threaten motorist safety, understanding the laws in your state is essential.

Current Laws on Cell Phone Use and Texting While Driving

Today, most states have passed distracted driving laws prohibiting cell phone use for motorists. However, regulations vary nationwide regarding permitted phone interactions and how strictly bans are enforced.

  • Handheld Cell Phone Bans – 24 states prohibit all drivers from using handheld cell phones while driving. These laws require drivers to use hands-free options if taking calls behind the wheel.

  • Texting While Driving Bans – 48 states ban texting and driving for all motorists. Most prohibit manually typing or reading messages while operating a vehicle. Two states, Arizona and Missouri, allow texting while driving for those over 21 years old.

  • All Cell Phone Bans – No state completely banned all cell phone use for drivers yet. However, 37 states prohibit novice drivers from using phones in any capacity while driving.

  • Primary vs. Secondary Enforcement – Laws are primarily or secondarily enforced depending on the state. Primary enforcement allows police to ticket drivers for distracted driving offenses alone. Secondary means officers must have another reason to pull drivers over first.

  • Fines and Penalties – Fines for using a phone while driving range from $20 to $500 nationwide. Texting while driving fines can exceed $1000 in some states. Most do not issue point deductions on licenses.

Notable State Laws on Phone Use and Texting While Driving

While most states restrict phone use behind the wheel, some have implemented tighter regulations and penalties for distracted driving. Here are some notable state laws:

  • Georgia – Passed the first state-wide texting-while-driving ban in 2010. Today, it prohibits handheld phone use and texting for all drivers. The state issues fines of up to $150.

  • New York – Imposes primary enforcement bans on handheld devices and texting for drivers. Fines reach $200 for a first offense.

  • Florida – Categorizes texting while driving as a primary offense, with fines escalating to $250 for multiple violations. It is also one of few states to add points to licenses.

  • California – Legislators expanded the state’s phone use laws in 2021. Now, drivers cannot use phones unless in hands-free mode. Fines start at $157 for a first offense.

  • Nevada – One of the strictest states for phone use behind the wheel. Nevada prohibits all cell phone use in cars, including hands-free. Fines reach up to $250.

  • New Hampshire – Uniquely prohibits all drivers from using cell phones and electronic devices while operating vehicles. Strict $500 first offense fine.

Are Hands-Free Cell Phones Safer for Drivers?

With many states moving towards permitting only hands-free phone use behind the wheel, are these devices safer? Research shows hands-free units reduce risks but do not eliminate distracted driving dangers altogether. Hands-free devices help drivers keep their eyes on the road and hands on the wheel. However, they do not eliminate mental distractions from conversations, which remain problematic.

While hands-free cell phone use is likely safer compared to handheld, limiting overall phone interactions remains the best practice for minimizing crashes and fatalities. Drivers should avoid calls when possible and keep conversations short. Voice controls like Siri can also allow for phone functions without manual manipulation. Ultimately, the only way to eliminate cell phone distraction is to abstain from use altogether when behind the wheel.

Here are some top tips all drivers should follow to avoid distracted driving tickets and fines:

  • Before driving, silence your phone and put it out of reach to remove temptations for checking or handling it. Enable do not disturb features if possible.

  • Adjust vehicle infotainment, GPS, climate controls, and music before getting on the road.

  • If you need to make a call, pull over safely first. The same applies to texting – never try to type or read messages while driving.

  • Use phone messaging auto-responses to let contacts know you cannot respond while driving.

  • Avoid emotional conversations, which require greater mental focus when driving with passengers.

  • Learn and follow your state’s distracted driving laws to avoid illegal phone use.

  • If you must use a phone, invest in a hands-free device compatible with your vehicle and phone.

The Bottom Line

Today, most states have laws prohibiting texting, handheld cell phones, or general phone use while driving. Understanding the exact regulations in your region is critical to avoid fines and help eliminate distractions. Ultimately, abstaining from phone use altogether remains the safest choice to reduce crash risks and driver fatalities caused by distracted driving each year. Take steps to drive phone-free and encourage passengers to do the same.

To summarize, distracted driving is a nationwide safety crisis, with ever-rising crashes and fatalities caused by cell phone use behind the wheel. Most states now prohibit texting and handheld phone use for motorists through primary or secondary enforcement laws. Fines for violations vary but can reach up to $500 in some regions. While hands-free devices reduce risks, they do not eliminate distractions entirely. Limiting phone interactions altogether remains the safest approach. Follow state laws and drive focused by silencing phones and avoiding all texting or calling when behind the wheel.

What are the texting and driving laws in the U.S.?

The texting and driving laws in the U.S. vary by state but generally prohibit handheld cell phones while driving. Since 2023, many states have implemented cellphone driving laws to ban texting and driving.

What is considered distracted driving?

Distracted driving is any activity that diverts attention from driving, such as using a cell phone, texting, eating, or adjusting the radio.

Are there specific laws that ban texting while driving?

Yes, specific laws ban texting while driving in every state. Texting and driving laws also apply to the use of handheld cell phones by all drivers.

What are the penalties for texting and driving?

The fines and penalties for texting and driving vary by state. Each state has its own laws and fines for cellphone use while driving, which can impact your driving record and lead to fines.

Can novice drivers use cell phones while driving?

No, novice drivers are typically prohibited from using handheld cell phones while driving. This is often enforced as a primary law for safety reasons.

Which states have laws that prohibit texting and driving?

As of 2023, 23 states have laws that ban texting and driving. However, it’s important to check your state’s specific laws and fines regarding cellphone use while driving.

Why are there laws that ban texting while driving?

Distracted driving, including texting and cellphone use, while driving, is a significant cause of accidents and fatalities. Therefore, laws have been implemented to reduce the risks associated with distracted driving.

How common is texting and driving in the United States?

Texting is so common that driving is the most dangerous for people in the United States. As a result, laws that ban texting and driving have been implemented to address this issue.

Are there specific laws regarding cellphone use for school bus drivers?

Yes, there are specific laws regarding cellphone use for school bus drivers as they are prohibited from using handheld cellphones while driving for the safety of passengers.

What should I do to practice safe and defensive driving?

Practice safe and defensive driving by adhering to the laws that ban texting while driving, avoiding cellphone use, and staying focused on the road to reduce the risks of distracted driving.