Cell phone driving bans, state by state: Where you break the law

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No text messaging or Internet use is allowed for any drivers. Drivers under 18 and those with intermediate or learner’s licenses cannot use cell phones at all.


School bus drivers may not use cell phones at all, and there is a statewide ban on texting while driving.

Those under 21 may not text while driving.

While there are no statewide prohibitions, the cities of Butte, Helena, Billings, and Whitefish ban hand-held device use while driving. Helena prohibits both hand-held phone use and texting.

Drivers under 18 with learner’s or intermediate licenses may not use cells at all. There is a texting-while-driving ban in Nebraska.

A ban on hand-held use and texting while driving throughout Nevada goes into effect January 1, 2012.

New Hampshire
New Hampshire completely bans texting while driving. While there are no limits on cell use, drivers cannot watch television.

New Jersey
There is a total ban on hand-held calls and text messaging while driving. School bus drivers and drivers under 21 with a permit or provisional license cannot use cells at all.

New Mexico

Drivers of state-owned vehicles may not use hand-held phones. Those with a provisional or learner’s license may not use a cell phone or do text messaging. All other drivers face no restrictions, except for those in the city of Las Cruces, which has a ban on hand-held calls.

New York
Statewide, there is a hand-held and texting while driving ban. New York City cabbies may not use cell phones at all.

North Carolina
School bus drivers and drivers with provisional licenses under 18 may not use mobile phones. A loophole for drivers under 18 allows them to call their parents. A complete texting-while-driving ban includes email and Internet use.

North Dakota
Those under the age of 18 will be banned from using cells as of January 1, 2012. There is a complete texting-while-driving ban.

There is no statewide regulation of distracted driving. The cities of Wauseon, Toledo, Columbus, Delaware, Belpre, Berea, Zanesville, Cincinatti, Cleveland Heights, Gahanna, Worthington, Hilliard, North Royalton, Summit County, Huron, and Bexley have all outlawed texting while driving. South Euclid and North Olmstead have banned both hand-held use and text messaging.

Drivers with learner’s or intermediate licenses must use a hands-free kit with cells and are banned from text messaging. School bus drivers may not use cells or text messaging at all.

There is a ban on hand-held phone calling and texting statewide. Those under 18 cannot use cell phones behind the wheel.

So far the state has only banned texting while driving, and that law goes into effect in March of 2012. While some local ordinances ban the use of handhelds while driving, some are being thrown out by judges. It’s best to check with your specific destination if you are traveling to Pennsylvania—or use a hands-free kit to be safe.

Rhode Island
No texting while driving is allowed. School bus drivers and drivers under 18 cannot use cells at all.

South Carolina
There are no current distracted-driving laws.

South Dakota
No distracted driving regulations are in place.

Drivers with learner’s permits or intermediate licenses may not use a mobile phone at all. School bus drivers cannot use a cell when they have passengers. Text messaging is prohibited completely, and video monitors for use by the driver are illegal.


Drivers under 18 and learner’s permit holders in their first six months of driving are banned from any cell use. School bus drivers cannot use a cell when they have children on the bus. No driver may use a cell phone in a school zone, whether driving or stationary. The cities of Nacogdoches, Arlington, and McAllen have banned texting while driving. El Paso and Alvin have banned handhelds and texting while driving. Other cities have enacted distracted-driving laws. Check with your rental car outlet, friends, or family in your destination city, as the laws in a few Texan cities are currently being made or have recently changed.

Text messaging is illegal while driving. While an outright ban on handhelds by drivers has resisted legislation, Utah does have a careless-driving law that includes cell phones as a potential distraction.

Drivers under 18 cannot use a cell at all, and there is a total texting-while-driving ban.

School bus drivers and drivers under 18 may not use a cell. Virginia has enacted a complete ban on text messaging.

Virgin Islands
There is a complete ban on handheld phone use in the unincorporated U.S. Virgin Islands. There are no other restrictions.

A complete ban on using a phone in-hand exists in the state of Washington, as does a complete texting-while-driving ban. Those with a learner’s or intermediate license may not use a cell at all.

West Virginia
School bus drivers and drivers under 18 with a learner’s or intermediate license may not text or use a cell phone.

A statewide ban on texting while driving is in effect, as is a more general regulation on distracted driving.


There is a complete texting while driving ban.

Outside the United States

If you’re renting a car in another country, ask about the local mobile phone laws when renting a vehicle. A hands-free device may need to conform to certain regulations as well, as in Australia. Here’s a summary of the laws in some popular travel destinations. Note that there is a patchwork of rules across European Union nations. Follow these guidelines for driving in the United Kingdom.

Mexico bans the use of a cell phone while driving in Mexico City, but there are no restrictions anywhere else.

Hand-held cell phone use and texting is illegal in all provinces and territories of Canada. There are additional regulations on use of electronic devices like a GPS or in-car DVD player that you should research before driving through Canada. Alberta’s distracted-driving laws are particularly comprehensive.

Australia has a total ban on all hand-held use of a cell phone, including texting, while driving. A hands-free kit in Australia must make the operation of the telephone completely voice-activated, and the driver may not touch the phone at any point.

New Zealand
Similar to Australia, New Zealand has a total ban on texting and hand-held use of a cell phone. Unlike Australia, hands-free kits may include brief touching of the phone, if needed.

Japan bans any mobile phone use while driving, including the use of hands-free devices.

Angela West dreams of opening a Fallout-themed pub featuring wait staff with Pip-Boys. She’s written for big insurance companies, small wildlife control businesses, gourmet food chains, and more. Follow her on Twitter at@angelawestand onFacebook.

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