Current state cell phone driving law highlights include the following:
Handheld Cell Phone Bans: 5 states (California, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, and Washington), the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands have enacted cell phone laws prohibiting driving while talking on handheld cell phones. With the exception of Washington State, these laws are all primary enforcement—an officer may ticket a driver for using a handheld cell phone while driving without any other traffic offense taking place.
Text Messaging: Text messaging is banned for all drivers in 7 states (Alaska, California, Connecticut, Louisiana, Minnesota, New Jersey, and Washington) and the District of Columbia. In addition, novice drivers are banned from texting in 9 states (Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Nebraska, North Carolina, Oregon, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia) and school bus drivers are banned from text messaging in 4 states (Arkansas, North Carolina, Texas, and Virginia).
Novice Drivers: 18 states and the District of Columbia restrict all cell phone use by novice drivers.
School Bus Drivers: In 17 states and the District of Columbia, school bus drivers are prohibited from all cell phone use when passengers are present, except for in emergencies.
Preemption Laws: The law in 6 states (Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Mexico, Ohio, and Pennsylvania) specifically authorizes a locality to ban cellphone use. Localities in other states may not need specific statutory authority to ban cellphones. Localities that have enacted restrictions on cellphone use include: Chicago, IL; Brookline, MA; Detroit, MI; Santa Fe, NM; Brooklyn, North Olmstead and Walton Hills, OH; Conshohocken, Lebanon and West Conshohocken, PA; and Waupaca County, WI.
Localities are prohibited from banning cellphone use in 8 states (Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Utah).
Some states, such as Utah and New Hampshire, treat cell phone use as a larger distracted driving issue.
Utah considers speaking on a cellphone to be an offense only if a driver is also committing some other moving violation (other than speeding).2
No state completely bans all types of cell phone use (handheld and hands-free) for all drivers.
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P – indicates Primary
S – indicates Secondary offense
1 – Dealt with as a distracted driving issue; New Hampshire enacted a comprehensive distracted driving law.
2 – Utah’s law defines careless driving as committing a moving violation (other than speeding) while distracted by use of a hand-held cellphone or other activities not related to driving.
3 - An officer in California can stop a person, regardless of age, holding a cellphone and talking or texting on it, but they may not use checkpoints to enforce the all cell ban for drivers younger than 18.
4 – During the 2008 legislative session, Louisiana passed 3 different cellphone laws addressing teen drivers. The governor signed all three. As of September 12, 2008, it is unclear whether both hand-held and hands-free phone use is prohibited, or whether only hand-held phone use is banned. All 3 laws prohibit text messaging. A 4th cell phone law prohibits cellphone use by school bus drivers.
5 – Effective 01/01/09
All of the information on this page has been compiled using these sources: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA.org sources obtained from: Sources: American Automobile Association (AAA), Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and State Highway Safety Offices. Most recently reviewed February, 2008.) , National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. This summary is for general information only and is not intended as a substitute for checking with the state you are driving in to ensure accurate updates and full compliance with the law. For more information through links to websites containing or describing state legislation on cell phone restrictions while driving, click on “online resources.”