States Laws Restricting Texting and Cellphone Use While Driving

State distracted driving laws that restrict cellphone use and texting while operating a vehicle.

As cellphone use, text messaging, and portable electronics use has become more a part of everyday life, the hazards posed by distracted driving have become a greater concern. In response, most states and many local governments have passed laws that ban or at least restrict cellphone and electronic device use while operating a vehicle. Read on to learn more.

Cellphone and Texting Restrictions

A number of states have outlawed handheld cellphone use while driving or have banned cellphone use for certain types of drivers. Most make an exception for emergency calls to police, the fire department, medical personnel, and the like.

Handheld phones. Many states—including California, Connecticut, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, and Washington—have enacted laws banning the use of handheld cellphones while driving altogether. And many states allow "primary enforcement" of a cellphone offense—meaning police officers can pull you over for using a handheld cellphone without any other reason for the traffic stop.

Novice or juvenile drivers. The majority of states have enacted special cellphone driving laws for novice drivers (for example, those with a learner's permit) or young drivers (such as those under the age of 18). These laws typically prohibit these underage drivers from all cellphone or electronic device use while operating a vehicle—including devices that are equipped with hands-free technology. In most of these states, the laws allow for primary enforcement.

School bus drivers. Many states have banned school bus drivers from using cellphones while passengers are present.

Texting. Almost all states—including some without cellphone bans—prohibit text messaging while driving. In most of these states, you can be pulled over and cited for texting as a primary offense.

Distracted driving. A number of states also have catch-all distracted driving laws that apply to any activity—including cellphone and electronic device use—that could substantially interfere with the motorist's ability to drive safely.

Local Bans

Some towns and cities have banned certain types of cellphone and electronic device use while driving. These laws are typically more strict than distracted driving laws of the state. In response, some state legislatures have enacted laws that prohibit local jurisdictions from implementing cellphone ordinances.

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