U.S. cell phone, texting laws at a glance

Last updated: October 1, 2014
US flag for cell phone states postAn up-to-date listing of cell phone and texting restrictions across the States. Click on the state’s name to view a full report on distracted driving laws and legislation.

Alabama: Text messaging while driving illegal for anyone driving in the state of Alabama.

Alaska: Drivers are banned from text-messaging or watching videos.

Arizona: School bus operators prohibited from using cell phones while driving. In Phoenix, drivers prohibited from using “personal digital assistants to send or receive a written message” (texting). In Tucson, drivers banned from text messaging as of April 1, 2012.

Arkansas: All drivers prohibited from text messaging. Drivers under 18 may not use cell phones, regardless of whether a hands-free device is employed. Drivers 18-20 must use hands-free attachments while talking on cell phones. School bus operators prohibited from using cell phones while driving.

California: Texting while driving outlawed. Adult drivers (18 and older) must use hands-free devices while talking on mobile phones. Minors are prohibited from using wireless phones while driving — with or without hands-free devices. School bus operators and transit bus drivers prohibited from using cell phones while driving. Text messaging via hands-free (voice controlled) devices will be allowed.

Colorado: Text messaging banned for all drivers. Minors (under 18) may not use cell phones while behind the wheel. Drivers with learner’s permits prohibited from using cell phones.

Connecticut: Texting outlawed for all drivers. Adult drivers (18 and older) must use hands-free devices when using mobile phones. Minors are prohibited from using wireless phones while driving — with or without hands-free devices. School bus operators prohibited from using cell phones while driving.

Delaware: Text messaging prohibited. Drivers with learner’s permits prohibited from using cell phones. School bus operators prohibited from using cell phones while driving.

District of Columbia: Drivers must use hands-free devices. Drivers with learner’s permits prohibited from using cell phones. School bus operators prohibited from using cell phones while driving.

Florida: Text messaging illegal for all drivers.

Georgia: Text messaging banned for all drivers. Drivers under the age of 18 prohibited from use of all cell phones. School bus operators prohibited from using cell phones while driving, if passengers are present.

Hawaii: Statewide ban on texting and handheld cell phone use. Drivers under age 18 barred from all uses of mobile electronic devices, including those in hands-free mode.

Idaho: Text messaging while behind the wheel illegal, unless operation is hands-free.

Illinois: Text messaging prohibited for all drivers. Cell phone use prohibited in school speed zones and construction zones. Drivers under the age of 19 are prohibited from using wireless phones while driving — with or without hands-free devices. Handheld wireless device use prohibited for all drivers effective Jan. 1, 2014. School bus operators prohibited from using cell phones while driving if passengers are present. In Chicago, all drivers must use hands-free devices.

Indiana: Text messaging prohibited for all drivers while vehicle is in motion. Drivers under the age of 18 may not use cell phones, text messaging units or other wireless telecommunications devices.

Iowa: No limits on cell phone use. Text messaging banned for all drivers; teens with restricted licenses prohibited from using all handheld electronic devices (including cell phones) while behind the wheel.

Kansas: Text messaging outlawed for all drivers. Drivers with permit licenses banned from use of cell phones or texting devices.

Kentucky: Text messaging prohibited for all drivers. Use of all personal communications devices banned for drivers under 18 years of age. School bus operators prohibited from non-official use of cell phones while transporting children.

Louisiana: Text messaging banned for all drivers. Social media use prohibited for all drivers. Drivers under 18 may not use cell phones or text-messaging devices. Drivers licensed for under a year may not use cell phones without hands-free devices.

Maine: Texting while driving outlawed for all drivers (includes email and IM). Maine has a general law against distracted driving that could bring tickets for cell phone use. Drivers under the age of 18 prohibited from using cell phones while driving. Drivers with learner’s permits or intermediate licenses prohibited from using cell phones while driving. The minimum fine for texting and driving in Maine has increased to $250.

Maryland: Text messaging prohibited for all drivers. Cell phone use while driving is prohibited unless a hands-free device is employed. Drivers under the age of 18 and drivers with learner’s permits or intermediate licenses are prohibited from use of all cell phones.

Massachusetts: Texting prohibited while driving. Use of all cell phones prohibited for drivers who are 16 and 17 years old. School bus operators prohibited from using cell phones while driving.

Michigan: Text messaging outlawed for all drivers. Drivers with level 1 or 2 graduated licenses prohibited from using cell phones (teens). In Detroit, drivers must use hands-free devices.

Minnesota: Drivers under the age of 18 with learner’s permits or intermediate licenses are prohibited from using cell phones while driving. Text messaging banned for all drivers.

Mississippi: Text messaging prohibited for drivers with restricted licenses.

Missouri: Text messaging prohibited for drivers age 21 or younger.

Montana: No limits on cell phone use or text messaging.

Nebraska: Text messaging outlawed for all drivers on Nebraska’s roads and highways. Drivers under the age of 18 with learner’s permits or intermediate licenses are prohibited from using cell phones.

Nevada: Handheld cell phone use and text messaging prohibited for all drivers.

New Hampshire: Text messaging and use of electronic devices with two hands are banned for all drivers. No limits on cell phone use.

New Jersey: Drivers must use hands-free devices. Text messaging and use of video games prohibited while driving. School bus operators prohibited from using cell phones while driving. Drivers with learner’s permits or probationary licenses are prohibited from using cell phones and other portable wireless electronic devices while driving (includes iPods and devices with hands-free accessories).

New Mexico: Text messaging prohibited for all drivers. Typing on cell phones (Internet use) barred. No statewide limits on cell phone calls.

New York: Drivers must use hands-free devices for cell phone calls. Text messaging and related Internet use outlawed. Some cities and counties in New York have separate bans on text messaging by drivers.

North Carolina: Text messaging prohibited for all drivers. Motorists under the age of 18 with provisional licenses are prohibited from using cell phones while driving, unless calling parents. School bus operators prohibited from using cell phones while driving.

North Dakota: Text messaging prohibited for all drivers. Drivers under 18 prohibited from using electronic communications devices, including cell phones.

Ohio: Statewide ban on text messaging by all drivers. For drivers under the age of 18, texting and use of other portable electronic devices also prohibited. Cleveland, Toledo, Columbus and a handful of other cities already bar texting & driving, and stricter local laws could trump the state laws.

Oklahoma: Inattentive driver law could lead to citations involving cell phones or text messaging. Teen drivers (with junior/restricted licenses) barred from using handheld electronic devices while vehicle is moving.

Oregon: Use of handheld cell phones outlawed for all drivers. Text messaging banned for all drivers. Cell phones use with hands-free attachments are allowed only for drivers over 18 years of age. Drivers under the age of 18 are prohibited from using cell phones or text messaging while driving.

Pennsylvania: Texting and driving outlawed. No statewide limits on cell phone use. Some local ordinances.

Rhode Island: Text messaging prohibited for all drivers. Those under the age of 18 also are banned from using cell phones while driving. School bus operators prohibited from using cell phones while driving.

South Carolina: No limits on cell phone use or text messaging.

South Dakota: Text messaging prohibited for all drivers. Drivers under under age 18 with restricted/learners licenses barred from using handheld wireless communications devices. No limits on adult drivers’ use of cell phones for making calls.

Tennessee: Text messaging outlawed for all drivers. Drivers with learner’s permits or intermediate licenses are prohibited from using cell phones while driving. School bus operators prohibited from using cell phones while driving, if passengers are present.

Texas: Drivers with intermediate licenses are prohibited from using cell phones while driving. School bus operators prohibited from using cell phones while driving, if passengers under 18 are present. Drivers under the age of 17 with restricted licenses are prohibited from using wireless communications devices. Drivers prohibited from using handheld devices in school crossing zones.

Utah: Text messaging outlawed for all drivers. Drivers under 18 barred from using wireless communications devices. No limits on adult cell phone use.

Vermont: Texting and handheld cell phone use prohibited for all drivers. Drivers under the age of 18 prohibited from all uses of cell phones. All portable electronics uses by drivers prohibited in work zones.

Virginia: Text messaging illegal for all drivers. Drivers with intermediate licenses are prohibited from using cell phones while driving.

Washington: Text messaging prohibited while driving. Drivers must use hands-free devices.

West Virginia: Text messaging and handheld cell phone use prohibited for all drivers. Drivers under age 18 with learner’s permits/intermediate licenses are prohibited from using all wireless communication devices. School bus drivers prohibited from using cell phones while operating the vehicles.

Wisconsin: Writing and sending of text messages banned for drivers whose vehicles are in motion. OK to read texts. Drivers under 18 and those with provisional licenses are barred from all cell phone use.

Wyoming: Text messaging prohibited for all drivers. No limits on cell phone use.

Guam and the Virgin Islands prohibit all handheld cell phone use while driving.

Interstate truck drivers and bus drivers prohibited from handheld cell phone use and text messaging, due to federal regulations that went into effect Jan. 3, 2012.

Comments

  1. I honestly think that phone usuage while driving at all should be banned enless for a emergency. No matter if it is hands free or what you are still not concentrating on what you are doing because you are listening to the person on the other line. I have had friends die because of using a cell phone while driving i think it is really dumb.

  2. carolineno says:

    I wish there were two different roads. One for people who care about driving safely and another for people who think they are at the race track or just don’t give a darn about their lives or the lives of others! Must we have laws for common sense?

  3. Can you post a table showing who has testing bans and hands-free requirements for easy reference? Also, do you have a list to sign up on for updates as they are posted?

  4. Hi Katie, thanks for your questions about HandsFreeInfo.com

    This page lists all of the restrictions by state, there is not a chart.

    Some state’s rules take a couple of words to explain; others take several long sentences — so I prefer the paragraph style to a chart.

    You can sign up for new posts via RSS or email here:

    http://feeds2.feedburner.com/HandsFreeInfo

    (This does not include updates to individual state roundups, which are happening all the time. You can monitor any given state for a “last updated” date.)

    Also, the Twitter tracks the new content:

    http://twitter.com/HandsFreeInfo

  5. I didn’t see Wisconsin. Do they have bans?

  6. Becky, thanks for pointing out the missing link, it’s there now.

  7. I read on highway Pennsylvania was to go hands-free only next week (January 3 2011). Is this true? When was this information last updated??

  8. There are two kinds of people in the world. Those that can multi-task and those that can’t. “Man’s got to know his limitations” Clint Eastwood

  9. Ben Levitan says:

    I’m an expert in cellphones (30 years/28 patents). and now I’m an expert witness in cases involving cell phones and wireless devices.

    Mostly patent cases but now Texting While Driving Accidents are big.

    Let me tell you; If you are talking on a phone, (hands-free or not) you are impaired at the same level as someone who is drunk at .08. That’s legally drunk in every state.

    I’ve also got a patent that stops people from texting and driving (or even talking and driving) but I wonder if the phone companies would install it in their networks.

  10. Totally agree with Ben. I don’t talk on the phone while driving, but my husband does…when I am not with him in the car. Laws in states bring them money by giving tickets, but don’t stop all the people from doing it. I would be very happy if cell companies install device actually stopping possibility of using the phone while driving.It will save many lives

  11. My idea revolves around using cell phone jamming devices in personally owned cars, in order to rein in people who are tied to their cell phones, texting, and doing all those things that are normally not done while driving.

    The setup I thought of would be deemed a requirement if a cell phone was being used for non-business means while driving the car. The device would only block the frequencies of the cell phones, and not other forms of communications such as police, fire, etc.

    There would be a dealer activation required, and once activated it would block only the cell phones used in that car. (I don’t know if these change with different providers.  Something to check out.)

    I am probably barking up the wrong tree, but I feel that with the proper control, and usage, the idea of a cell phone jammer might prevent a few accidents, and teach people that a cell phone in a car for non-business use, is not a good idea.

    • Hey J, thanks for sending along your idea about jamming. I’d love to have a pocket cell phone jammer myself, silence some of those yapping-away restaurant patrons and whatnot. The big issue here is that jamming is illegal. This has to do with doctors, police, etc., who need to be on call at all times and can’t have their calls blocked. The closest technology that’s in use are apps that route calls to voice mail once the phone knows it’s going a certain speed.

  12. Each State should provide a hands-free device to every Driver that applys for a license. This way we can rest assure everyone will have the requirement.

  13. The federal law that went into effect on January 3, 2012 for the Commercial Truck Drivers and Bus Drivers “that if caught on a hand-held cell phone,” could face over $2,700 in fines for each offense should also be expanded to private auto vehicles. They too suffer the same distractions when using a cell phone. The federal law does not ban the use of hands free devices such as a blutooth headset or those which allow the driver to answer a call with the push of a single button, but does not require the driver to hold the device. I believe if federal law was expanded to private auto vehicles also, it would make the interstates even more safer for commuters.

  14. Eva Kypena says:

    If you think use the cell when you driving is unsafe let’s face this: Everything is unsafe like eating, reading, writing and talking to pasanger. Everyting should be prohibited because you don’t take attention for your driving. I am truck driver and you can’t believe it what I see every day. What that people doing while they driving. I can’t believe it!!! If you want to (ban) cell while you driving take it all… I am for cell not texting.

  15. First of all, you can’t block cell phones from working in cars. It would prevent the passengers from using their devices! Imagine being in a taxi or on a bus and not being able to text or call. If using a cell phone distracts you from driving like being drunk, then what would having children in a vehicle distract you like? Alcohol poisoning???

    Bottom Line, If you can not multitask, you should not drive, because driving is a constant field of multitasking. I am sure if they banned all those who are under 21 from driving without a licensed driver in the car, fatalities would drop far more then when cell phones were banned. If it is about being distracted, then teenagers and young adults are nothing but distracted!

  16. Al Cinamon says:

    Miranda, it pains me when people sound like they know what they’re talking about when, in reality, they are totally ignorant of facts.

    First of all, no human can multi-task. Our brains don’t work that way. It’s a myth to think so. Here’s a simple experiment for you to try:

    Put two pots of water on the stove. Stir the water in one pot continuously and let the other pot come to a boil. When the other pot starts boiling over try taking that pot off the flame while you continue to stir. Now, let’s assume stirring is driving. Now the phone rings. Uh oh, the other pot is boiling over.

  17. I’m visiting the US from the UK and I just can’t believe how many people use their handheld mobile phone while driving. Then I found out it’s actually not illegal in most states!!! Research has shown how it’s as dangerous as drink driving – so why is it still allowed? The US has a much higher road death rate than the UK, and I expect mobile phone use is a growing contributor to that.

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