When you're traveling, make sure to know the local laws about mobile phone use and text messaging while driving. Some infractions carry weighty fines and even potential jail time.
Many of us want the right to talk and text in our cars, but study after study shows that talking or texting while driving causes accidents. Distracted-driving laws result from battles between legislators, law enforcement, insurance companies, and individuals. Opponents of the laws claim that they're a way for law enforcement to beef up revenue from traffic fines at the expense of individual liberties. Whatever your viewpoint is, this guide should help on your next trip.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has been calling for a complete ban on talking and texting while driving, even with hands-free devices. While no states have a complete ban on cell phones while driving, there are bans in some states for drivers who operate certain kinds of vehicles, as well as for beginning drivers. If you are between 16 to 20 years old and planning a road trip, in some places you can be charged even for talking on a hands-free phone behind the wheel.
This list is derived from available regulations as of December 2011.
Novice drivers 16 or 17 years old who have had a drivers license less than six months are under a total cell phone call and texting ban. Upcoming legislation in 2012 may ban all texting.
All drivers are banned from text messaging.
There is a ban on all cell phone use for bus drivers, and on text messaging within the city of Phoenix.
Texting while driving is banned in Arkansas. Arkansas also bans hand-held phones for drivers between the ages of 18 and 20, and all cell phone use for school bus drivers and drivers under 18. All cell phone use, including hands-free, is illegal in school or highway work zones.
California bans texting while driving for all drivers and any cell phone use at all for school bus drivers and drivers under 18. They also ban all handheld use of cell phones.
Colorado bans any cell phone use including hands-free devices, for drivers under 18 and any drivers with an instruction permit. Texting is illegal for everyone.
All handheld cell use and texting is banned. School bus drivers and drivers under 18 cannot use mobile phones at all, even with a hands-free device. Drivers must not use video game players and DVD players.
All handheld cell use, including texting, is banned. School bus drivers and those with a learner’s or intermediate license cannot use a cell at all.
District of Columbia
No handheld cells use is permitted in Washington. School bus drivers and those with learner’s permits are banned from using cell phoness, while texting is illegal for everyone.
There are no prohibitions on texting or use of cell phones.
Texting is banned, as is all mobile phone use for school bus drivers and those under 18. There are no restrictions on handheld cell use for anyone else.
The island territory of Guam only bans texting while driving.
No handheld use of cell phones or texting while driving is permitted in any of Hawaii’s counties.
While there are no current regulations covering distracted driving, a bill is expected to pass in 2012 that will ban texting while driving.
School bus drivers and those under the age of 19 cannot use mobile phones at all. Texting while driving is banned completely for everyone. While the state does not regulate the use of handheld cells while driving, it is illegal in the city of Chicago. Any phone use at all, hands-free or hand-held, is illegal statewide in school and construction zones.
Drivers under 18 are banned from using mobile phones, while text messaging is illegal for any driver. There are no restrictions on handheld cell use for drivers 18 and over.
Those with a Restricted or Intermediate license may not use a mobile phone at all. There is a ban on texting while driving in Iowa.
Drivers with a learner’s or intermediate license are restricted from any mobile phone use. There is a texting while driving ban for everyone in Kansas, and a ban on handheld use in the city of Manhattan.
School bus drivers may not use cells for unofficial business, whether they're driving or not. Those under 18 cannot use cells at all. A statewide text messaging ban is in effect.
Those with a learner’s or intermediate license may not use hand-held cells. School bus drivers, drivers in their first year of driving, and drivers under 18 may not use cells at all. There is a total text messaging ban in the state.
Those under 18 and those with a learner’s or intermediate driver’s permit may not use mobile phones, and text messaging is completely illegal for every driver. A general distracted-driving law allows officers to charge drivers for a broader range of distracted-driving behavior in the event of an accident.
Maryland has banned all hand-held cell phone use and text messaging. Those with intermediate or learner’s licenses are banned from using cells behind the wheel at all, as are drivers under the age of 18.
School bus drivers, public transit drivers, and drivers under 18 are banned from all cell phone use, and the state has implemented a complete texting while driving ban.
There is a complete texting-while-driving ban. Detroit drivers must use hands-free devices to make calls.
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