Take down the tree. Toss the tinsel. It’s a new year, and the holidays are behind us. Many Americans will be heading home after the holidays and over 90% will be driving, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. Impatient to get home, most probably won’t consider that distracted driving laws on cell phone and texting use vary from state to state.
While some states have handheld bans only, others have handheld and texting bans. In some states, cell phone and texting bans apply only to “novice drivers” or young drivers.
Some resources that will help you understand your state’s cell phone and texting laws, while also helping you plan for the road trip home, include the following:
- Distraction.gov provides a summary of distracted driving laws by state.
- Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) provides a chart outlining state cell phone and texting laws and offers additional resources to learn more about distracted driving.
- Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) provides a table and state maps for handheld bans, young driver bans, and texting bans.
Enforcement Varies from State to State
The type of enforcement is another variable to consider in understanding distracted driving laws by state.
If handheld cell phone use or texting falls under primary law enforcement, then you could be pulled over and ticketed for just that offense alone. For example, California has a handheld ban with primary enforcement. If you’re caught using a cell phone while driving in this state, an officer can pull you over even if you aren’t breaking any other driving law. That ticket will cost you $159, according to ca.gov.
If cell phone or texting violations are enforced as a secondary law, you won’t be ticketed unless you have first been pulled over for a different driving offense.
Some states, like Montana and Ohio do not have any current bans for distracted driving. Florida is another similar state, operating under preemption law that prevents local jurisdictions from implementing bans on distracted driving. For more information, visit distraction.gov.
Not So Common Sense?
Common sense safety says to avoid cell phone and texting use while driving. Just take a look at the statistics. According to the National Safety Council (NSC), 23% of crashes or an estimated 1.3 million crashes per year can be attributed to talking on cell phones or texting while driving.
However, if you find yourself crossing state lines on your road trip home from the holidays, you may need to remember more than just your common sense – or you could find yourself with a ticket in place of the cell phone in your hand.