Cellphones and texting

November 2017

Talking on a hand-held cellphone while driving is banned in 15 states and the District of Columbia.

The use of all cellphones by novice drivers is restricted in 38 states and the District of Columbia.

Text messaging is banned for all drivers in 47 states and the District of Columbia. In addition, novice drivers are banned from texting in one state (Missouri).

Many localities have enacted their own bans on cellphones or text messaging. In some but not all states, local jurisdictions need specific statutory authority to do so. In addition, most school bus drivers are banned from texting and using hand-held cellphones by state code, regulation or school district policy.

The table and maps below show the states that have cellphone laws, whether they specifically ban text messaging, and whether they are enforced as primary or secondary laws. Under secondary laws, an officer must have some other reason to stop a vehicle before citing a driver for using a cellphone. Laws without this restriction are called primary.

Hover over map for more detail.

1In California, persons are prohibited from driving a motor vehicle while holding and operating a phone or electronic communication device. Drivers who are 18 and older may dictate, send or listen to text-based messages if they're using voice-activated, hands-free devices.

2In Louisiana, all learner's permit holders, irrespective of age, and all intermediate license holders are prohibited from driving while using a hand-held cellphone. All drivers younger than 18 are prohibited from using any cellphone. All drivers, irrespective of age, issued a first driver’s license are prohibited from using a cellphone for one year. The cellphone ban is secondary for novice drivers ages 18 and older.

3In Oregon, drivers may not hold a personal electronic device in either hand or both hands while operating a motor vehicle on a public highway, including while temporarily stationary because of traffic, a traffic control device, or other momentary delays, effective October 1, 2017.

4In 2007, Utah defined careless driving as committing a moving violation (other than speeding) while distracted by use of a handheld cellphone or other activities not related to driving. IIHS reported this as the functional equivalent of a secondary law. In 2012, Utah’s law was modified to specify that a person is not prohibited from using a handheld wireless device while operating a moving motor vehicle when making or receiving a telephone call. In 2014, Utah again amended its law by removing the act of talking on a hand-held phone from the section describing careless driving. In addition, the most recent iteration bans drivers from dialing a hand-held phone and caps the maximum fine at $100 for a first offense provided the offender inflicted no bodily harm.

5In Washington, drivers may not hold a personal electronic device in either hand or both hands while operating a motor vehicle on a public highway, including while temporarily stationary because of traffic, a traffic control device, or other momentary delays, effective July 23, 2017.