Texting and driving laws in all 50 states

Texting and driving is illegal in almost every state, but laws about the use of cellphones for a conversation, or by minors, vary state-to-state. A texting and driving ticket can lead to fines and increased insurance rates.

Anna Swartz 1600

Anna Swartz

Published January 10, 2020

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Texting while driving is prohibited in 48 states and the District of Columbia

  • Many states also have laws regarding handheld phone conversations while driving, or specific laws about minors and phone use behind the wheel

  • In addition to being dangerous, texting and driving can also earn you a hefty fine

Smartphones have become nearly ubiquitous — they’re in almost everyone’s back pocket or bag. But along with the accessibility and convenience of having a computer on us at all times comes fears about what the distraction of a screen means for drivers on the road. According to the National Traffic Safety Administration, in 2017, there were 3,166 people killed in vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers, which included drivers distracted by activities like eating, adjusting the radio or talking to other passengers as well as texting.

The dangers posed by texting and driving have inspired both technological and legal approaches to keeping drivers’ eyes off their phones and on the road. A range of apps exist to prevent texting and driving, like AT&T’s DriveMode app, which is available for anyone regardless of cellphone carrier and silently sends auto-replies to any incoming texts while you’re behind the wheel. IPhones can now also automatically put your phone into “Do Not Disturb” mode when it senses you’re in a moving car.

In terms of legislative efforts to discourage texting and driving, 48 states and the District of Columbia now have a ban on texting and driving. The consequences of texting and driving vary state-to-state, but can include fines, fees, and even license suspension.

In this article:

Texting and driving statistics

88% • The percent of trips during which drivers used their phones, according to a 2017 study by Zendrive

3,166 • The number of people killed in distraction-related car crashes in 2017 according to the NHSTA

3.9% • The percent of drivers ages 16-24 observed texting or using hand-held devices while driving in 2017, according to the NHSTA

2 seconds • The amount of time you need to take your eyes off the road in order to increase your risk of an accident up to 24x, according to research from Oregon State University

Texting and driving laws by state

As of 2019, 48 states and the District of Columbia had passed laws banning texting and driving. A smaller number of states had bans on drivers having handheld phone conversations while behind the wheel, either overall or in specific circumstances, like passing through a highway work zone. And 38 states and the District of Columbia have specific laws on the books that restrict cellphone use by minors.

Here is a comprehensive list of distracted driving laws in every state, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety:

StateTexting and drivingHand-held phone conversationsYoung driver cellphone use
AlabamaBanned for all driversNo banBanned for 16-year-old drivers and 17-year old drivers who have had an intermediate license for less than 6 months
AlaskaBanned for all driversNo banNo ban
ArizonaBanned for all driversBanned for all driversBanned for learner's permit holders and intermediate license holders during the first 6 months after licensing
ArkansasBanned for all driversBanned for drivers 18 and over but under 21, banned in school and highway work zonesBanned for drivers under 18
CaliforniaBanned for all driversBanned for all driversBanned for drivers under 18
ColoradoBanned for all driversNo banBanned for drivers under 18
ConnecticutBanned for all driversBanned for all driversBanned for drivers under 18
DelawareBanned for all driversBanned for all driversBanned for learner's permit holders and intermediate license holders
District of ColumbiaBanned for all driversBanned for all driversBanned for drivers under 18
FloridaBanned for all driversBanned in school and work zonesNo ban
GeorgiaBanned for all driversBanned for all driversBanned for drivers under 18
HawaiiBanned for all driversBanned for all driversBanned for drivers under 18
IdahoBanned for all driversNo banNo ban
IllinoisBanned for all driversBanned for all driversBanned for drivers and learner's permit holders under 19
IndianaBanned for all driversNo banBanned for drivers under 21
IowaBanned for all driversNo banBanned for learner's permit holders and intermediate license holders
KansasBanned for all driversNo banBanned for learner's permit holders and intermediate license holders
KentuckyBanned for all driversNo banBanned for drivers under 18
LouisianaBanned for all driversBanned in signed school zonesBanned for all novice drivers
MaineBanned for all driversBanned for all driversBanned for learner's permit holders and intermediate license holders
MarylandBanned for all driversBanned for all driversBanned for drivers under 18
MassachusettsBanned for all driversBanned for all driversBanned for drivers under 18
MichiganBanned for all driversNo banBanned for learner's permit holders and intermediate license holders, integrated voice operating systems excepted
MinnesotaBanned for all driversBanned for all driversBanned for learner's permit holders and provisional license holders during the first 12 months after licensing
MississippiBanned for all driversNo banNo ban
MissouriBanned for drivers 21 and youngerNo banNo ban
MontanaNo banNo banNo ban
NebraskaBanned for all driversNo banBanned for learner's permit holders and intermediate license holders under 18
NevadaBanned for all driversBanned for all driversNo ban
New HampshireBanned for all driversBanned for all driversBanned for drivers under 18
New JerseyBanned for all driversBanned for all driversBanned for learner's permit holders and intermediate license holders
New MexicoBanned for all driversNo banBanned for learner's permit holders and intermediate license holders
New YorkBanned for all driversBanned for all driversNo ban
North CarolinaBanned for all driversNo banBanned for drivers under 18
North DakotaBanned for all driversNo banBanned for drivers under 18
OhioBanned for all driversNo banBanned for drivers under 18
OklahomaBanned for all driversBanned for learner's permit and intermediate license holdersNo ban
OregonBanned for all driversBanned for all driversBanned for drivers under 18
PennsylvaniaBanned for all driversNo banNo ban
Rhode IslandBanned for all driversBanned for all driversBanned for drivers under 18
South CarolinaBanned for all driversNo banNo ban
South DakotaBanned for all driversNo banBanned for learner's permit holders and intermediate license holders
TennesseeBanned for all driversBanned for all driversBanned for learner's permit holders and intermediate license holders
TexasBanned for all driversBanned in school crossing zones and on public school property during the time the reduced speed limit appliesBanned for drivers under 18
UtahBanned for all driversNo banBanned for drivers under 18
VermontBanned for all driversBanned for all driversBanned for drivers under 18
VirginiaBanned for all driversBanned in highway work zonesBanned for drivers under 18
WashingtonBanned for all driversBanned for all driversBanned for learner's permit holders and intermediate license holders
West VirginiaBanned for all driversBanned for all driversBanned for drivers under 18 who have a learner's permit or intermediate license
WisconsinBanned for all driversBanned in highway construction areasBanned for learner's permit holders and intermediate license holders
WyomingBanned for all driversNo banNo ban

How much is a ticket for texting and driving?

So what’s the penalty if you’re caught texting while driving? Different states have different consequences for violating their respective distracted driving laws, but you can probably expect at least a fine if you’re caught sending a text message while behind the wheel. In New York, for example, drivers ticketed for texting while driving can face a fine of $50–$200 for a first offense, with fines increasing for subsequent offenses.

In Texas, a texting while driving ticket can mean fines of $25–$99 for a first offense, but a driver who is convicted of texting while driving who is also at-fault for serious injury or death to others may be fined up to $4,000 and even face jail time.

Your state may or may not consider texting while driving a “primary law.” A primary law means that you can be stopped for texting while driving even if you’ve committed no other violations. A “secondary law” means that texting while driving may be prohibited under some circumstances, but a law enforcement officer can only pull you over for texting while driving if they’ve also observed you committing another traffic violation, like if you were texting while driving and also ran a red light.

Many states employ a “points” system for traffic violations — different types of violations earn different numbers of points. If you rack up too many points on your license, it may be suspended or even revoked. If you’re ticketed for texting while driving, or for having a handheld cell conversation, that will likely add points to your license.

The best way to avoid the consequences of texting while driving — including both the legal consequences and the potential dangers of distracted driving — is to simply not use your phone while behind the wheel. Using a hands-free device isn’t prohibited, so if you must have a cell conversation, do it through voice command or bluetooth.

But there’s evidence that even if you aren’t texting while driving, electronic devices in your car, including the ones that are built into the vehicle itself, can distract you from the road. If your car has a navigation system, program it before you start your trip, and ask a passenger to adjust your car’s climate or entertainment systems rather than looking away from the road.

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What happens to my insurance after a texting and driving ticket

Your car insurance premium is calculated based on a number of factors that car insurance companies use to evaluate how much of a risk you’ll be to insure. Your insurance company will consider everything from your ZIP code to your age to the make and model of car you drive. And yes, your driving history will also play a big role in how much you’ll pay for car insurance.

Any traffic violations on your MVR, or motor vehicle report, will be factored into the cost of your car insurance, so if you had a clean driving record but you’re later ticketed for texting while driving, you may see your rates go up when it’s time to renew your policy.

But don’t worry, violations don’t affect your insurance forever. Most car insurance companies will only look at the past three to five years of your driving history. So if you get a texting and driving ticket and then keep a spotless record for the next few years, your rates can go back down.

About the author

Insurance Expert

Anna Swartz

Insurance Expert

Anna Swartz is a Managing Editor at Policygenius in New York City, and an expert in auto insurance. Previously, she was a senior staff writer at Mic, writing about news and culture. Her work has appeared in The Dodo, AOL, HuffPost, Salon and Heeb.

Policygenius’ editorial content is not written by an insurance agent. It’s intended for informational purposes and should not be considered legal or financial advice. Consult a professional to learn what financial products are right for you.

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