Cell Phone Use While Driving: What's the Law?

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Depending on where you live, laws regarding cell phone use while driving varies. Some states only ban drivers of a certain age from using hand held phones while driving, but other states ban everyone from doing so.
What exactly are state laws across the U.S. regarding cell phone use while driving, and what penalties are involved if you are caught violating the law?

State Laws and Penalties Regarding Cell Phone Use While Driving

Each state approaches the use of handheld devices differently. While many states do allow handheld cell phone use, many have banned texting while driving. The following chart details the different state laws regarding cell phone use and the penalties you can expect for violating those laws:
Cell Phone and Texting Restrictions by State
State Cell Phone Handheld Use Ban Text Messaging While Driving Ban Penalties for Cell Phone Use and Texting While Driving (as of 7-2017)
Alabama No All drivers First offense: $25 fine; second offense: $50 fine; subsequent offenses: $75 fine
Alaska No All drivers Charged with a misdemeanor if no accident. Charged with a felony if an accident with injury.
Arizona No Only for permit holders under 18 No penalty.
Arkansas Drivers 18 to 20 All drivers Up to a $100 fine.
California Yes All drivers First offense: $20 fine; subsequent offenses: $50 fine.
Colorado No All drivers First offense: $56 fine; Subsequent offense: $106 fine.
Connecticut Yes All drivers First offense: $125 fine; subsequent offenses: $250 fine.
Delaware Yes All drivers First offense: $106 fine; subsequent offenses: up to a $350 fine.
D.C. Yes All drivers Fine of $100.
Florida No All drivers Fine of $30.
Georgia No All drivers Fine of $150 plus one point on driving record.
Hawaii Yes All drivers First offense: $200 fine; second offense (within same year) $300 fine.
Idaho No All drivers Fines start at $85 for the first offense.
Illinois Yes All drivers Fines start at $75 for a first offense.
Indiana No All drivers Fine ranges from $35 to $500.
Iowa No All drivers Fine of $30, or up to $1,000 for causing a serious accident while texting.
Kansas No All drivers Fine of $60.
Kentucky No All drivers First offense: $25 plus court costs; subsequent offenses: $50 plus court costs.
Louisiana Drivers with permits, regardless of age All drivers First offense: $175 fine; subsequent offenses: $500 fine.
Maine No All drivers First offense: $100 fine; fines increase for subsequent offenses.
Maryland Yes All drivers Fine ranges from $40 to $100.
Massachusetts No All drivers First offense: $100 fine; subsequent offenses: $250 fine.
Michigan No All drivers First offense: $100 fine; subsequent offenses: $200 fine.
Minnesota No All drivers Fines up to $300 per offense.
Mississippi No All drivers Fine of $500 for a first time offender.
Missouri No Drivers 21 and under Fine of $20.50.
Montana No No No penalty.
Nebraska No All drivers First offense: $200 fine; second offense: $300 fine; subsequent offenses: $500 fine.
Nevada Yes All drivers First offense: $50 fine; second offense (within seven years): $100 fine; subsequent offenses (within seven years): $250 fine.
New Hampshire Yes All drivers $100 fine.
New Jersey Yes All drivers $100 fine.
New Mexico In-state vehicles All drivers First offense: $25 fine; subsequent offenses: $50 fine.
New York Yes All drivers Fine of $150 plus mandatory fees up to $85.
North Carolina No All drivers Novice drivers: $25 fine; adult drivers: $100 fine.
North Dakota No All drivers Fine of $100.
Ohio No All drivers Up to $150 fine. Up to a $300 fine for novice drivers.
Oklahoma Drivers with permits All drivers Suspended or revoked driver's license.
Oregon Yes All drivers Fine of $142.
Pennsylvania No All drivers Fine of $50.
Rhode Island No All drivers First offense: $85 fine; second offense: $100 fine; subsequent offenses: $125 fine.
South Carolina No. All drivers Fine amount varies by county.
South Dakota No. All drivers Fine of $100.
Tennessee No. All drivers Fine of $50 plus court costs (not to exceed $10).
Texas No. Banned in school zones All drivers No penalty.
Utah No All drivers Fine of $750 and/or jail time of up to three months.
Vermont Yes All drivers First offense: $100 fine; subsequent offenses (within two years): $250 fine
Virginia No All drivers First offense: $125 fine; subsequent offenses: $250 fine.
Washington Yes All drivers First offense: $124 fine.
West Virginia Yes All drivers First offense: $25 fine; second offenses: $50 fine; subsequent offenses: $75 fine.
Wisconsin No All drivers Fine of $20 to $400, and up to four points on driving record.
Wyoming No All drivers Up to a $75 fine.
While not strictly prohibited in many states, the use of handheld devices can lead to a ticket if you are caught in states that do ban it. The tickets that result from getting caught using a handheld device in states that prohibit such use can cause your car insurance premiums to go up.

Why It’s Dangerous

Regardless of the laws, it’s risky to use a handheld phone while driving. Distracted drivers and distracted driving was responsible for 2,841 deaths in 2018 according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Texting while driving is especially dangerous, because reading and writing text messages involves visual, manual, and cognitive distraction.

Safer Alternatives

If you do have a handheld device, the safest thing to do is stay off social media and refrain from cellphone use while operating your vehicle. If you spend a lot of time driving and can’t always pull over or have a passenger monitor your messages and take your calls, consider investing in voice-activated, hands free device. These will allow you to take calls or (if the device or app provides dictation) send and hear texts without taking your eyes off of the road or your hands off of your steering wheel. However, that’s not a perfect solution, since you will still be distracted.

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