Everything You Need to Know About Rhode Island’s Texting and Driving Laws

Rhode Island’s texting and driving laws will cost you $100 or more in fines and/or license suspension.
Written by Cassandra Hamilton
Reviewed by Jessica Barrett
background
Rhode Island’s texting and driving law went into effect on June 1, 2018. Texting and driving violations carry a wide range of fines depending on how many offenses a driver has, but any offense could result in license suspension.
 An estimated 25% of all car accidents in
Rhode Island
are caused by distracted driving. The Rhode Island DMV conducted a survey where 67% of respondents said they never texted while driving—which means that 33% did! Only 32% said they never said they never talk on a handheld cell phone while driving. Texting and talking on the phone are both considered forms of distracted driving.
 The penalties for texting and driving vary. That’s why the car insurance comparison super app
Jerry
is here to help you understand the law and stay safe. Jerry will walk you through the nitty gritty of the 2018 law, go over the exceptions, and discuss what consequences you could face if you’re caught texting, “on my way!”
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What are the texting and driving laws in Rhode Island?

Rhode Island considered banning the use of handheld electronic devices all the way back in 2001. It wasn’t until 2018, however, that the law against texting and driving went into effect.
The ban on texting and driving in Rhode Island isn’t limited to just texting. All handheld devices are banned while driving and it is considered a primary offense. Primary offenses are offenses that can get you pulled over if a law enforcement official observes engaging in that activity—even if you’re not committing any other violations.
It’s not just Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, and texting that are banned—even holding your phone to make a call can get you pulled over in Rhode Island. You also can’t use headphones or other accessories that cover both ears while driving. Consider yourself “unplugged” while driving to avoid getting a ticket.
If you’re a driver under 18 or a school bus driver, any use of a cell phone is prohibited.
 The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recognizes three types of distracted driving:
  • Visual: taking your eyes off the road
  • Manual: taking your hands off the wheel
  • Cognitive: thinking about something other than driving
 When you text and drive, you combine all three types of distracted driving. That’s a recipe for trouble on the road.
 MORE: Texting and driving laws, explained

What are the penalties for texting and driving in Rhode Island? 

As a primary offense, texting and driving in Rhode Island carries steep penalties. A first offense has a maximum fine of $100 and/or license suspension up to 30 days. Second offenses have a maximum $150 fine and/or license suspension up to 3 months. Third or more offenses will result in a maximum fine of $250 and a license suspension of up to 6 months.
Additionally, talking on a handheld cell phone will earn you a maximum fine of $100. First time offenders can have this fee waived if they can prove they have gotten a hands-free accessory since getting their ticket, but if it’s your second or higher offense, you’ll have to pay up. 
Here’s how it all shakes out:
Offense
Fine
License suspension
1st offense
Up to $100
Up to 30 days
2nd offense
Up to $150
Up to 3 months
3rd or higher
Up to $250
Up to 6 months
As you can see, Rhode Island doesn’t hit your wallet as much as it hits your driving privileges. If you need to drive to get to work, see family and friends, or run errands, you’ll want to put the phone down while driving.

Are there exceptions to Rhode Island’s texting and driving law? 

Yes. If you are on duty and working in one of the following fields, you can use a cell phone:
  • Law enforcement
  • Emergency medicine 
  • Fire safety
Rhode Island also makes exceptions if you are turning your device off or on, parked away from the flow of traffic, or contacting emergency services, physicians, hospitals, health clinics, and public utility companies. You are also allowed to use your device if you are using hands-free technology. 

Are there special rules about texting and driving for young drivers? 

Yes. Drivers under the age of 18 are fully prohibited from using cell phones or other handheld electronic devices.
Key Takeaway If you have or see an emergency, you can use your phone to contact emergency services.

Can texting and driving raise my insurance premium?

Drivers in Rhode Island can expect an increase on their car insurance premium if they have received a distracted driving ticket. Rate increases vary by company, but there are average rate increases.
 This is how it breaks down in dollars: motorists with clean driving records in Rhode Island spend around $2,364 every year on car insurance. A texting and driving citation will increase that rate by $800—a 34% increase—all the way up to $3,164.
 Don’t pull your phone out while you’re driving to keep your rates low. If you stay safe and avoid tickets and accidents, you could even earn a
safe driver discount
.
 MORE: How much a distracted driving ticket costs you in the long run

How to save money on car insurance in Rhode Island

It’s easy to lose track of your car insurance and pay too much. A texting and driving conviction can cost you even more—not just in fines, but in premium increases too. Luckily you can avoid overpaying with an insurance broker that is not just a comparison shopping expert, but pocket-sized too!
 After it’s safe to pull out your phone (i.e. once you’ve parked), download the
Jerry
app. Fill out the questions with your unique information—you only do this once—and relax for the 45 seconds it takes Jerry to send you 50+ competitive quotes from top insurance companies. Then all you have to do is choose the quote and coverage that is right for you!
 No, really! Jerry will handle the paperwork and even help you cancel your old policy. Best of all, the average Jerry user saves $887 a year. That’s a lot less stress for a lot less cash.
 “My monthly insurance payment went from $469 to $362 and
Jerry
gave me a $25 gift card from Amazon! I’m so happy they helped me switch between companies. I sent my sister their link and she’s saving money now too!” —Wanda P.
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FAQs

No, you won’t go to jail, but your license could be suspended for up to six months if you become a repeat offender.
Texting and driving is six times more likely to cause an accident than drinking and driving. That’s
pretty serious.
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