Is texting and driving illegal? (2022)

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 SwartzAndrew Hurst

By 

Anna Swartz

Anna Swartz

Managing Editor & Auto Insurance Expert

Anna Swartz is a managing editor and auto insurance expert at Policygenius, where she oversees our car insurance coverage. Previously, she was a senior staff writer at Mic.com, as well as an associate writer at The Dodo.

 & Andrew Hurst

Andrew Hurst

Senior Editor & Licensed Auto Insurance Expert

Andrew Hurst is a senior editor and a licensed auto insurance expert at Policygenius. His work has also been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, USA Today, NPR, Mic, Insurance Business Magazine, ValuePenguin, and Property Casualty 360.

Updated March 8, 2022 | 3 min read

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As of 2022, texting and driving is illegal in 48 states and the District of Columbia. In 41 of these states, texting and driving is a primary offense. This means that an officer can cite a driver for texting and driving even if they didn’t break any other rules. In 24 states and the District of Columbia, it’s illegal to use any handheld device while driving.

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In addition to broad texting and driving laws, some states have rules for drivers of certain ages. In 37 states, drivers under the age of 18 are also not allowed to use their phones. Breaking texting and driving laws can result in fines, fees, higher car insurance rates, and even license suspension.

Key Takeaways

  • Texting and driving is illegal in 48 states and the District of Columbia, and it's a primary offense in 41 of these states.

  • In 24 states and the District of Columbia, all uses of handheld devices is illegal, and it's a primary offense in all of these states.

  • Texting and driving is illegal for school bus drivers and minors in many states. These laws are usually, though not always, primary offenses.

Texting and driving laws by state

Texting and driving is illegal in 48 states and the District of Columbia. A smaller number of states (24 and the District of Columbia) have bans on drivers using any handheld devices while behind the wheel. Usually, texting and driving laws come in two forms:

  • Primary offenses: Law enforcement officers can pull you over and cite you if you're texting and driving, even if you’re not breaking any other rules.

  • Secondary offenses: You can get a citation for texting and driving only after you've been pulled over for a more serious, primary offense.

In the 48 states where texting and driving is illegal, 41 list the violation as a primary offense. In each of the 24 states where using a phone while driving is illegal, that violation is a primary offense.

Here is a comprehensive list of distracted driving laws in every state, according to the Governor's Highway Safety Association [1] :

StateTexting and drivingHand-held phone conversationsYoung driver cellphone use
AlabamaBanned for all drivers (Primary)No banBanned for 16-year-old drivers and 17-year old drivers who have had an intermediate license for less than 6 months (Primary)
AlaskaBanned for all drivers (Primary)No banNo ban
ArizonaBanned for all drivers (Primary)Banned for all drivers (Primary)Banned for learner's permit holders and intermediate license holders during the first 6 months after licensing (Secondary)
ArkansasBanned for all drivers (Primary)Banned for drivers 18 and over but under 21, banned in school and highway work zones (Secondary)Banned for drivers under 18 (Secondary)
CaliforniaBanned for all drivers (Primary)Banned for all drivers (Primary)Banned for drivers under 18 (Secondary)
ColoradoBanned for all drivers (Primary)No banBanned for drivers under 18 (Primary)
ConnecticutBanned for all drivers (Primary)Banned for all drivers (Primary)Banned for drivers under 18 (Primary)
DelawareBanned for all drivers (Primary)Banned for all drivers (Primary)Banned for learner's permit holders and intermediate license holders (Primary)
District of ColumbiaBanned for all drivers (Primary)Banned for all drivers (Primary)Banned for drivers under 18 (Primary)
FloridaBanned for all drivers (Secondary)No banNo ban
GeorgiaBanned for all drivers (Primary)Banned for all drivers (Primary)Banned for drivers under 18 (Primary)
HawaiiBanned for all drivers (Primary)Banned for all drivers (Primary)Banned for drivers under 18 (Primary)
IdahoBanned for all drivers (Primary)Banned for all drivers (Primary)No ban
IllinoisBanned for all drivers (Primary)Banned for all drivers (Primary)Banned for drivers and learner's permit holders under 19 (Primary)
IndianaBanned for all drivers (Primary)Banned for all drivers (Primary)Banned for drivers under 21 (Primary)
IowaBanned for all drivers (Primary)No banBanned for learner's permit holders and intermediate license holders (Primary)
KansasBanned for all drivers (Primary)No banBanned for learner's permit holders and intermediate license holders (Primary)
KentuckyBanned for all drivers (Primary)No banBanned for drivers under 18 (Primary)
LouisianaBanned for all drivers (Primary)Banned in signed school zones (Primary)Banned for all novice drivers (Primary)
MaineBanned for all drivers (Primary)Banned for all drivers (Primary)Banned for learner's permit holders and intermediate license holders (Primary)
MarylandBanned for all drivers (Primary)Banned for all drivers (Primary)Banned for drivers under 18 (Primary)
MassachusettsBanned for all drivers (Primary)Banned for all drivers (Primary)Banned for drivers under 18 (Primary)
MichiganBanned for all drivers (Primary)No banBanned for learner's permit holders and intermediate license holders, integrated voice operating systems excepted (Primary)
MinnesotaBanned for all drivers (Primary)Banned for all drivers (Primary)Banned for learner's permit holders and provisional license holders during the first 12 months after licensing (Primary)
MississippiBanned for all drivers (Primary)No banNo ban
MissouriBanned for drivers 21 and younger (Primary)No banNo ban
MontanaNo banNo banNo ban
NebraskaBanned for all drivers (Secondary)No banBanned for learner's permit holders and intermediate license holders under 18 (Secondary)
NevadaBanned for all drivers (Primary)Banned for all drivers (Primary)No ban
New HampshireBanned for all drivers (Primary)Banned for all drivers (Primary)Banned for drivers under 18 (Primary)
New JerseyBanned for all drivers (Primary)Banned for all drivers (Primary)Banned for learner's permit holders and intermediate license holders (Primary)
New MexicoBanned for all drivers (Primary)No banBanned for learner's permit holders and intermediate license holders (Primary)
New YorkBanned for all drivers (Primary)Banned for all drivers (Primary)No ban
North CarolinaBanned for all drivers (Primary)No banBanned for drivers under 18 (Primary)
North DakotaBanned for all drivers (Primary)No banBanned for drivers under 18 (Primary)
OhioBanned for all drivers (Secondary)No banBanned for drivers under 18 (Primary)
OklahomaBanned for all drivers (Primary)Banned for learner's permit and intermediate license holders (Primary)No ban
OregonBanned for all drivers (Primary)Banned for all drivers (Primary)Banned for drivers under 18 (Primary)
PennsylvaniaBanned for all drivers (Primary)No banNo ban
Rhode IslandBanned for all drivers (Primary)Banned for all drivers (Primary)Banned for drivers under 18 (Primary)
South CarolinaBanned for all drivers (Secondary)No banNo ban
South DakotaBanned for all drivers (Primary)No banBanned for learner's permit holders and intermediate license holders (Secondary)
TennesseeBanned for all drivers (Primary)Banned for all drivers (Primary)Banned for learner's permit holders and intermediate license holders (Primary)
TexasBanned for all drivers (Primary)Banned in school crossing zones and on public school property during the time the reduced speed limit applies (Primary)Banned for drivers under 18 (Primary)
UtahBanned for all drivers (Primary)No banBanned for drivers under 18 (Primary)
VermontBanned for all drivers (Primary)Banned for all drivers (Primary)Banned for drivers under 18 (Primary)
VirginiaBanned for all drivers (Primary)Banned for all drivers (Primary)Banned for drivers under 18 (Primary)
WashingtonBanned for all drivers (Primary)Banned for all drivers (Primary)Banned for learner's permit holders and intermediate license holders (Primary)
West VirginiaBanned for all drivers (Primary)Banned for all drivers (Primary)Banned for drivers under 18 who have a learner's permit or intermediate license (Primary)
WisconsinBanned for all drivers (Primary)No banBanned for learner's permit holders and intermediate license holders (Primary)
WyomingBanned for all drivers (Primary)No banNo ban

When can you legally use your cell phone while driving?

While you usually can't use your cell phone while driving to make a call or send a text, there are some states that allow texting while driving. You can legally use your phone to text and drive in Missouri and Montana — as long as you're at least 21.

There are 22 states where you can legally use your cell phone to make a call while driving. 

  • Alabama

  • Alaska

  • Colorado

  • Florida

  • Iowa

  • Kansas

  • Kentucky

  • Michigan

  • Mississippi

  • Missouri

  • Montana

  • Nebraska

  • New Mexico

  • North Carolina

  • North Dakota

  • Ohio

  • Pennsylvania

  • South Carolina

  • South Dakota

  • Utah

  • Wisconsin

  • Wyoming

Is there a fine for texting and driving?

Yes, in states where texting and driving is illegal, you can expect a fine if you're caught. However, there's no one fine for texting while driving. For example, in New York, for example, drivers ticketed for texting while driving can face a fine of $50 to $200 for a first offense, while drivers in Texas can expect fines of $25 to $99 for the same type of citation.

In addition to fines, many states employ a points-based system for traffic violations. Different types of violations earn different numbers of points, and your license may be suspended or even revoked if you get too many points. 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 dangers of distracted driving — is to simply not use your phone while behind the wheel.

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How does texting and driving affect your car insurance?

Your car insurance premium is based on factors that car insurance companies use to evaluate how much of a risk you’ll be to insure. When determining your insurance rates, most car insurance companies will consider everything from your ZIP code to your age to the make and model of car you drive. 

Your driving history is one of the biggest factors in what you pay for coverage, and any recent traffic violations on your motor vehicle report will cause your premiums to increase. If you get a ticket for texting and driving, even if you have an otherwise clean record, you may see your rates go up when it’s time to renew your policy.

However, even if you get a ticket for texting and driving, 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 may go back down.

→ Read more about all the factors that influence what you pay for auto insurance

Frequently Asked Questions

Is looking at your phone while driving illegal?

It depends on the state. Some states have broad laws that prohibit web browsing and games in addition to texting while driving. On the other hand, some states allow drivers to use their phones to navigate unfamiliar areas, as long as they start before they actually begin driving.

Are there laws against hands-free devices while driving?

Some states have laws against hands-free devices while driving, while others allow limited use of hands-free calls and text messaging. Depending on the state, drivers may use their devices to make hands-free emergency calls, or may be able to text and call only if their phone is mounted on their windshield or dashboard.

Is it illegal to make video calls while driving?

You're not allowed to make video calls, including using FaceTime, while you're driving in states where handheld devices are banned. However, if these devices aren't banned in your state, you can make video calls, though you should mount your phone so your hands stay free while you’re talking.