Texting While Driving: A State by State Guide

by | Jan 5, 2021 | Traffic School

In 2018, distracted driving took 2,481 lives in the US, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. They also estimate that 400,000 people were injured in a car crash due to distracted driving.

Put simply, using phones while driving kills.

The texting and driving laws by state can get confusing. Some states have banned texting while driving, while others also ban holding a phone at all while driving. Let’s look at the laws in each state so you can stay safe.

Types of Cell Phone Laws

First, it’s important to know the difference between primary and secondary enforcement law.

According to the Governor’s Highway Safety Association, a primary law is when “an officer may cite a driver for using a handheld cellphone without any other traffic offense taking place.”

Secondary means a law enforcement officer cannot issue a citation unless the driver has a previous violation for a different traffic law.

Some states only have cell phone bans for novice drivers, which are drivers with a learner’s or intermediate permit.

Distracted Driving Laws: State by State Guide

It’s a good idea to know the consequences of texting and driving by state so you can avoid being pulled over on a road trip. If you do get pulled over, follow these tips.

Alabama:

  • Text messaging ban for all drivers, primary law
  • No hand-held ban
  • Novice drivers: ban for drivers age 16, or 17 with an intermediate license for less than six months

Alaska:

  • Text messaging ban for all drivers, primary law
  • No hand-held ban
  • Novice drivers: no bans

Arizona:

  • Text messaging ban for all drivers, primary law
  • Hand-held ban with a warning through January 1, 2021, primary law
  • Novice drivers: ban for instruction and intermediate permit holders under age 18

Arkansas:

  • Text messaging ban for all drivers, primary law
  • Hand-held ban in school and work zones only, primary law
  • Novice drivers: secondary enforcement for drivers under age 18

California:

  • Text messaging ban for all drivers, primary law
  • Hand-held ban for all drivers, primary law
  • Novice drivers: secondary enforcement for drivers under age 18

Colorado:

  • Text messaging ban for all drivers, primary law
  • No hand-held ban
  • Novice drivers: primary law ban for drivers under age 18

Connecticut:

  • Text messaging ban for all drivers, primary law
  • Hand-held ban for all drivers, primary law
  • Novice drivers: primary law ban for drivers under age 18

Delaware:

  • Text messaging ban for all drivers, primary law
  • Hand-held ban for all drivers, primary law
  • Novice drivers: primary law ban for drivers with an intermediate permit

District of Columbia:

  • Text messaging ban for all drivers, primary law
  • Hand-held ban for all drivers, primary law
  • Novice drivers: primary law ban for drivers with a learner’s permit

Florida:

  • Text messaging ban for all drivers, primary law
  • Hand-held ban in school and work zones only, primary law
  • Novice drivers: no bans

Georgia:

  • Text messaging ban for all drivers, primary law
  • Hand-held ban for all drivers, primary law
  • Novice drivers: no bans

Guam:

  • Text messaging ban for all drivers, primary law
  • Hand-held ban for all drivers, primary law
  • Novice drivers: no bans

Hawaii:

  • Text messaging ban for all drivers, primary law
  • Hand-held ban for all drivers, primary law
  • Novice drivers: primary law ban for drivers under age 18

Idaho:

  • Text messaging ban for all drivers, primary law
  • Hand-held ban for all drivers, primary law
  • Novice drivers: no bans

Illinois:

  • Text messaging ban for all drivers, primary law
  • Hand-held ban for all drivers, primary law
  • Novice drivers: primary law ban for drivers under age 19

Indiana:

  • Text messaging ban for all drivers, primary law
  • Hand-held ban for all drivers, primary law
  • Novice drivers: primary law ban for drivers under age 21

Iowa:

  • Text messaging ban for all drivers, primary law
  • No hand-held ban
  • Novice drivers: primary law ban for all drivers with a restricted or intermediate license

Kentucky:

  • Text messaging ban for all drivers, primary law
  • No hand-held ban
  • Novice drivers: primary law ban for drivers under age 18

Kansas:

  • Text messaging ban for all drivers, primary law
  • No hand-held ban
  • Novice drivers: primary law ban for drivers with a learner or intermediate license

Louisiana:

  • Text messaging ban for all drivers, primary law
  • Hand-held ban for all drivers in school zones, primary law
  • Novice drivers: primary law hand-held ban for all drivers with a learner’s permit or under age 18

Maine:

  • Text messaging ban for all drivers, primary law
  • Hand-held ban for all drivers, primary law
  • Novice drivers: primary law ban for drivers with a learner or intermediate permit

Maryland:

  • Text messaging ban for all drivers, primary law
  • Hand-held ban for all drivers, primary law
  • Novice drivers: primary law ban for drivers under age 18

Massachusetts:

  • Text messaging ban for all drivers, primary law
  • Hand-held ban for all drivers with a learner’s permit, primary law
  • Novice drivers: primary law ban for drivers under age 18

Michigan:

  • Text messaging ban for all drivers, primary law
  • No hand-held ban
  • Novice drivers: primary law ban for drivers with level one or two license

Minnesota:

  • Text messaging ban for all drivers, primary law
  • Hand-held ban for all drivers, primary law
  • Novice drivers: primary law ban for drivers with a learner permit under age 18 and drivers with provisional licenses

Mississippi:

  • Text messaging ban for all drivers, primary law
  • No hand-held ban
  • Novice drivers: no ban

Missouri:

  • Text messaging ban for drivers 21 and under, primary law
  • No hand-held ban
  • Novice drivers: no ban

Montana:

  • No bans on any cell phone use for any drivers

Nebraska:

  • Text messaging ban for all drivers, secondary law
  • No hand-held ban
  • Novice drivers: secondary law ban for drivers under age 18 with learner or intermediate permit

Nevada:

  • Text messaging ban for all drivers, primary law
  • Hand-held ban for all drivers, primary law
  • Novice drivers: no bans

New Hampshire:

  • Text messaging ban for all drivers, primary law
  • Hand-held ban for all drivers, primary law
  • Novice drivers: primary law ban for drivers under age 18

New Jersey:

  • Text messaging ban for all drivers, primary law
  • Hand-held ban for all drivers, primary law
  • Novice drivers: primary law ban for drivers with permit or provisional license

New Mexico:

  • Text messaging ban for all drivers, primary law
  • No hand-held ban
  • Novice drivers: primary law ban for drivers with learner or provisional license

New York:

  • Text messaging ban for all drivers, primary law
  • Hand-held ban for all drivers, primary law
  • Novice drivers: no bans

North Carolina:

  • Text messaging ban for all drivers, primary law
  • No hand-held ban
  • Novice drivers: primary law ban for drivers under age 18

North Dakota:

  • Text messaging ban for all drivers, primary law
  • No hand-held ban
  • Novice drivers: primary law ban for drivers under age 18

Ohio:

  • Text messaging ban for all drivers, primary law
  • No hand-held ban
  • Novice drivers: primary law ban for drivers under age 18

Oklahoma:

  • Text messaging ban for all drivers, secondary law
  • Hand-held ban for drivers with a learner’s or intermediate license, primary law
  • Novice drivers: no ban

Oregon:

  • Text messaging ban for all drivers, primary law
  • Hand-held ban for all drivers, primary law
  • Novice drivers: primary law ban for drivers under age 18

Pennsylvania:

  • Text messaging ban for all drivers, primary law
  • No hand-held ban
  • Novice drivers: no ban

Puerto Rico:

  • Text messaging ban for all drivers, primary law
  • Hand-held ban for all drivers, primary law
  • Novice drivers: no bans

Rhode Island:

  • Text messaging ban for all drivers, primary law
  • Hand-held ban for all drivers, primary law
  • Novice drivers: primary law ban for drivers under age 18

South Carolina:

  • Text messaging ban for all drivers, primary law
  • No hand-held ban
  • Novice drivers: no bans

South Dakota:

  • Text messaging ban for all drivers, secondary law
  • Hand-held ban for all drivers, primary law
  • Novice drivers: drivers with learner or intermediate license, secondary law

Tennessee:

  • Text messaging ban while the car is in motion, primary law
  • Hand-held ban for all drivers, primary law
  • Novice drivers: primary law ban for drivers with learner or intermediate permit

Texas:

  • Text messaging ban for all drivers, primary law
  • Hand-held ban in school zones and on public school property, primary law
  • Novice drivers: primary law ban for drivers under age 18

Utah:

  • Text messaging ban for all drivers, primary law
  • No hand-held ban
  • Novice drivers: primary law ban for drivers under age 18

Vermont:

  • Text messaging ban for all drivers, primary law
  • Hand-held ban for all drivers, primary law
  • Novice drivers: primary law ban for drivers under age 18

Virgin Islands:

  • Text messaging ban for all drivers, primary law
  • Hand-held ban for all drivers, primary law
  • Novice drivers: no bans

Virginia:

  • Text messaging ban for all drivers, primary law
  • Hand-held ban for all drivers beginning January 1, 2021, primary law
  • Novice drivers: secondary law ban for drivers under age 18

Washington:

  • Text messaging ban for all drivers, primary law
  • Hand-held ban for all drivers, primary law
  • Novice drivers: primary law bans for drivers with learner or intermediate permit

West Virginia:

  • Text messaging ban for all drivers, primary law
  • Hand-held ban for all drivers, primary law
  • Novice drivers: primary law ban for drivers under 18 with learner permit

Wisconsin:

  • Text messaging ban for all drivers, primary law
  • Hand-held ban in work zones only
  • Novice drivers: primary law ban for drivers with learner or intermediate permit

Wyoming:

  • Text messaging ban for all drivers, primary law
  • No hand-held ban
  • Novice drivers: no bans

Learn More with Defensive Driving

Keep yourself and others safe from distracted driving by staying off your phone and focusing on the road. 

You can learn more safe driving laws in your state through our online defensive driving courses.

It’s your responsibility to know the law and keep everyone on the road safe.

 

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