Kansas: Cell phone laws, legislation

Last updated: December 18, 2017
Cell phone, texting news: Both the House and Senate are considering plans to restrict the use of handheld communications devices by drivers. The 2017 measures specifically target the holding of a cell phone to a driver’s ear. The House sponsor is Louis Ruiz, while the Transportation Committee has the Senate version. “What I’m trying to accomplish is the relinquishing of handheld devices while driving,” Ruiz said at an early February committee hearing.

kansas state flag for texting report A plan to ban use of handheld cell phones for all drivers died in committee in June 2016. “Do we want to wait until we kill more people — injure more people — before we do something?” state Rep. Ramon Gonzalez said during testimony. But HB 2219 came under fire from representatives citing personal freedom concerns such as Ken Corbet and John Doll. “Sooner or later, there are no freedoms,” Corbet said. “The key thing is personal responsibility.”

The state’s ban on text messaging while driving took effect Jan. 1, 2011. Kansas has no statewide limits on cell phone use by adult drivers. No cell phone legislation advanced in any of the sessions between 2010 and 2016.

Current prohibitions:

  • Drivers with restricted licenses banned from using wireless communications devices.
  • Text messaging outlawed for all drivers. Fine $60.

Read the Kansas text messaging statute | teen cell phone law.

Distracted driving legislation (2017):
Senate Bill 99: Would prohibit the holding of a wireless communications device to the ear while driving in Kansas. Extension to texting & driving statute. $60 fine. (Transportation Committee)

SB 144: Would bar use of a handheld wireless communication device in a school zone or a road construction zone. Fine: $60. (Transportation Committee)

House Bill 2010: Same as SB 99, above. (Ruiz)

Distracted driving news (2017)
The Kansas Department of Transportation says an average of 92 people die in the state each year due to distractions from electronic devices. That’s about a quarter of overall roadway fatalities.

2016 distracted driving news
A plan to ban use of handheld cell phones for all drivers failed in 2016. The House Committee on Utilities and Telecommunications’s proposal (House Bill 2219) envisioned fines starting at $60 and topping out at $240. The legislation also sought to modernize the Kansas distracted driving law, with prohibitions of engaging in smartphone functions such as browsing the Internet and posting text to Web sites.

Miss Kansas of 2016 came to her good-deeds “platform” of fighting distracted driving through personal experience. She was a passenger in a vehicle in 2014 when the driver began texting on her phone and crossed the center line, leading to a three-vehicle crash. Kendall Schoenekase said she suffered minor injuries in the wreck and another girl was hurt. She’ll try to become the fourth Miss Kansas to become Miss America.

2015 distracted driving legislation:
House Bill 2219: Would prohibit use of a wireless communication device while driving, including using a cell phone for calls. Prohibited activities including browsing and posting information on Internet. Fines: $60 (first offense), then $120 (second), then $240. Died in committee June 1, 2016. (Committee on Utilities and Telecommunications)

2015 distracted driving news
The secretary of the Kansas Department of Transportation testified in favor of a handheld cell phone bill before the House Utilities and Telecommunications Committee on Feb. 10: “The act of driving requires your full attention,” Mike King said. “Any action that takes your hands off the wheel, eyes off the road and interrupts your train of thought is distraction driving.”

The Capital-Journal editorialized in support of House Bill 2219, but wasn’t a fan of its exemptions, which include drivers checking traffic and weather info. “People receiving traffic or weather alerts can do that before they get on the roads or highways,” the editorial board said. “A tightly written law would be easy to enforce.” The paper took to task state Rep. Ken Corbet, who argues that the cell phone bill would take away a personal freedom. “That would suggest each motorist has the right to decide whether to endanger everyone else on the roads and highways,” the paper wrote Feb. 13. “It’s an argument that doesn’t work for intoxicated drivers.”

2014 distracted driving news
A Preston woman received a year’s probation for causing the death of a woman while she was text messaging and driving. The late 2012 death of Virginia Sell also brought driver Jennifer Dale a $1,000 fine and the requirement that she speak at several schools about the dangers of distracted driving. Sell’s family said Dale showed no remorse, but received an apology during the sentencing hearing. Dale, 36, is a single mother of three and her children would have become wards of the state had she been sent to prison, the judge was told.

The Kansas Highway Patrol wrote almost 150 warnings and citations during a pair of 2014 sweeps that targeted distracted driving. Troopers cited 71 drivers for texting and handed out the same number of warnings. The extra enforcement hours were funded by the state Department of Transportation as part of the “U Drive. U Text. U Pay” awareness campaign. “Our key goal is curbing dangerous driving behaviors on the roads, and these specialized enforcements are just one more way we promote safety,” said Col. Ernest Garcia, Superintendent of the patrol. The first texting & driving crackdown was in April and the second in July.

Distracted driving news (2013)
Manhattan’s ban on use of handheld cell phones yielded about 2,000 tickets as the city neared the third anniversary of the law, police say. About 450 tickets were handed out for texting & driving in the same period, Riley County police report. Although awareness and overall compliance are good, “the younger generation tends not to pay much attention to (the bans),” a police spokesman told Kansas First News in late May 2013. The fine is $180. Manhattan banned handheld cell phones for drivers in July 2010.

2012 distracted driving legislation:
HB 2500: Would prohibit school bus drivers from using hand-held wireless telephones while on the road. Exempts communications with dispatchers. Fines: $50 (first offense) then $100. Died in committee June 1. (Transportation Committee)

2012 distracted driving notes:
The Kansas City suburb of Mission was considering a ban on handheld cell phones. Enforcement would be primary, allowing police to stop and cite violators. The ban would be among the first in Kansas. The city police chief said the idea is to be “proactive.” Among the concerns — the Johnson County suburb already has a reputation for running speed traps.

The city of Manhattan, home to Kansas State University, says it’s written more than 700 tickets for electronic distracted driving in the first eight months of 2012. Manhattan’s ban on handheld cell phone use and texting by drivers went into full effect Jan. 1, 2011. A bid to repeal the law was rejected in the summer of 2011.

In 2011, Wichita police wrote 34 tickets under the state texting & driving law. Most went to adults.

2011 distracted driving notes:
The city of Manhattan voted to retain its ban on handheld cell phones. Two commissioners wanted to bring the city into alignment with state laws, which permit cell phone use by adult drivers. The June 7, 2011, vote against the repeal was 3-2. The mayor and the county police department both opposed the plan to drop the cell phone ban. Read the city’s cell phone & texting law.

2010 legislation:
Senate Bill 300: Would ban text messaging while driving. (Originally only a vanity license plate measure.) Amended and approved by the Senate on May 10 and sent to the governor, who signed it into law on May 24. Latest action: This texting law took effect Jan. 1, 2011.

Senate Bill 351: Would outlaw texting for all drivers in Kansas. Fine $100. Approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Feb. 16 and then by the full Senate on Feb. 19. (Emler/Committee on Ways and Means)

House Bill 2439: Would prohibit text messaging and related activities for Kansas drivers. $100 fine. (Sponsored by the Transportation Committee)

House Bill 2441 Seeks to ban text messaging and emailing by all drivers. (Appears identical to SB 351, above) (Committee on Appropriations)

2010 legislation notes
The Senate approved SB 300 in the late hours of the legislature’s final day. The ban on sending and receiving text messages while driving was added to a bill that originally made changes to Kansas’ vanity license plate operation.

During the full Senate debate on the anti-texting bill SB 351, an opponent called the plan “popular, but dumb.” Sen. Jay Emler, R-Lindsborg, who drafted the measure, replied: “I don’t give a rat’s rear about being popular. It was drafted to save lives.” The Senate’s vote of Feb. 19 was 34-6.

Manhattan banned handheld cell phone use for drivers on July 1. The city’s mayor expressed “zero confidence” that the legislature would act on the issue.

No one spoke against HB 2439 in its Transportation Committee hearing on Jan. 19. The Highway Patrol and the Peace Officers Association both spoke in favor of the text messaging ban for all Kansas drivers.

2009 legislation
HB 2143: Would ban holders of learner’s permits from using wireless communications devices while driving (part of larger bill addressing young driver safety). Signed into law by the Kansas governor in late March. Took effect Jan. 1, 2010.

HB 2132: Would prohibit the sending, writing or reading of text messages while driving.

Kansas cell phone/texting legislation notes:
HB 2143 (substitute), the teenage driving legislation, was approved by the Kansas Senate and House, and then signed by Gov. Kathleen Sebelius in late March. The cell phone ban was one of several new restrictions on young drivers in the legislation. The teen cell phone ban went into effect Jan. 1, 2010. This is the first move by Kansas to restrict cell phone use by drivers.

The Topeka Capital-Journal endorsed the proposed text messaging ban HB 2132, saying, “One aspect of the bill we particularly like is that it treats minors and adults equally, unlike some other attempts to regulate the use of cell phones while driving.” The proposed fine for unlawful texting would be $60.

In Kansas, cell phone-related accidents killed seven people and injured 161 in 2007, according to the state Department of Transportation.

A Kansas University professor reports that 72 percent of the 321 KU students surveyed said they texted while driving.

Lawrence, Kan., received national attention in 2006 for a proposed ban on use of cell phones by drivers. The plan died in committee.

Recent cell phone/texting legislation
HB 2706: Would have required that “no person while driving a motor vehicle shall be so distracted as to interfere with the safe operation of such motor vehicle. Activities include using personal communication technologies.” Last seen in committee.

HB 2705: Would have prohibited text messaging while driving. Last seen in committee.

HB 2118 would have required hands-free devices for drivers (2007). Died in committee in May 2008.


  1. Stacy Greenlee says:

    Our laws need to change, these laws need to be stricter — same level as DUI, Manslaughter or Murder. It’s a choice that you make if you break the law. The laws are there for a reason, but they need a lot of work and a lot of changes. Most are not strict enough and if you have money you can buy your way out of anything.

    This is an important law, too many people are dying from careless drivers. Make first offense 30 days in jail to all rich or poor and everybody needs to be told and obey or pay the consequences, no exceptions.

  2. The day will come when a person is going back and forth from your lane to the lane beside you and back again. You wonder if they are have health problems or the car is not responding.

    You get brave and drive up beside them to check that they are okay. And you see them texting on the phone and don’t even notice you driving beside them. Then they drive right through a red light. And onto an exit ramp for the interstate. Yes!!!! We need no text laws in all of the US.

    May god bless all who are hit by drivers texting, or talking on the phone or drunk drivers. And may we all know that any phone call can wait until we pull over in a safe area and make the call.

  3. brandan says:

    Car manufactures should make it where the car can’t start unless your cell phone is off

  4. There should be no cell phone usage what so ever while driving. Its not a knee jerk reaction. I am almost hit once a day in Topeka because of cell phone usage. For every four cars i see one is on a phone. Topeka has terrible drivers. Ive never seen a place with more damaged cars and im from nyc. You’re not that important that you need to be on the phone in your car. Get over yourselves and focus on the road.

  5. Marilou Rojero says:

    A guy driving a Hyundai was within a hairline of hitting my car the other day. He was merrily talking on his cellphone. I am definitely for banning cellphone use while driving. Why can’t people see the harm this practice has inflicted on society – deaths, injuries …!

  6. Typical knee jerk anger to a problem. Simple facts are that phones are part of every day use now. You have people that argue there should be no cell phone usage because its a distraction, agreed but EVERYTHING is a distraction in a car. … Because cell phones are a hot topic everyone jumps on the issue and points fingers. Simple facts is cell phones are here and technology can find a reasonable solution but laws need to not over react either.

  7. Amy Logan says:

    I was coming home from classes at WATC and a distracted 15-yr-old misread the signal and turned directly in my path. I am currently laid up on my couch after surgery to reattach my tibia and several ligaments. I am unable to drive for 8 weeks or more and I find it completely unfair that this kid will still be driving (and probably texting). I do agree that adults also drive distracted but realize that they have at least had driving experience to help balance the likelihood of a wreck. Offenders should be required to do community service for taking officers off of the street to deal with the damage they cause through their negligence of others safety.

  8. Kerrie Lake says:

    I’m curious in regards to how Kansas penalizes drivers that cause accidents due to texting or cell phone use period! As stated this is as dangerous as someone with .08 or more BAC..people are subjected to breathalizers if suspicion of alcohol is present and are penalized severely for their actions yet millions of Kansans use cell phones while driving and I myself have seen drivers on phones not attentively driving in fact driving more careless than drunk drivers! What will Kansas think if every time they are stopped for careless acts or even a wide turn… driving their cell phones are invaded by police! Which they should be! My thought are that cell phone use while driving should be penalized in the same manner as drunk drivers..maybe worse..these people are in their right minds while chosing to be distracted!

  9. Wayne Mayer says:

    Why not ban ALL cell phone usage while driving? I’ve been run off the road and had vehicles make a dangerous turn in front of me enough times on my motorcycle to know that cell phones are a definite distraction. And most of them have been so called “adults”. Even Oprah says so! But our state legislators don’t seem to get it. There is really no difference between texting and dialing a phone number. It takes your eyes off the road. I don’t even answer my phone if it rings while on the road. I guarantee you, if you hit me while you’re dialing & driving, you better hope you kill me. Because if I can still walk I’m going to get up and knock the snot out of you!

  10. Are there any restictions, ordinances, laws regarding the use of cell phones while driving in the Topeka City limits or in the Swawnee County by a legal adult licensed driver?…Thank for any information

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