Texting while driving has become illegal in many states. Because handheld phone use while driving is known to be a dangerous activity, getting a ticket for texting or cell phone use is sure to increase your auto insurance premium.
This article highlights states where texting-while-driving is not currently banned at the state level, and also provides an overview of laws affecting mobile phone use and texting while driving.
States where texting is not currently banned at the state level
In Arizona, Florida, Hawaii, Montana, South Carolina, and South Dakota, the average driver is currently free to text, talk, or otherwise use handheld cell phones without violating state law. Keep in mind, individual cities and counties in those states may and often do enact their own bans.
States where texting is banned only for certain drivers
Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas currently do not have statewide restrictions on all drivers, but each of these states prohibits texting by school bus drivers and/or novice drivers (usually defined as a driver under age 18, or sometimes 21).
Overview of texting-while-driving and cell phone use laws in all 50 states
- In Alabama, novice drivers 16 or 17 years old with an intermediate license are banned from using a cell phone while driving, and it is a primary offense. Text messaging is banned for all drivers and is a primary enforcement, which means police can pull vehicles over on suspicion of cell phone use. Other cell phone use, such as talking, is not explicitly banned.
- Alaska bans text messaging for all drivers, but does not ban cell phone use.
- In Arizona, school bus drivers are banned from cell phone use while driving. There are no other bans on text messaging or cell phone use while driving.
- Arkansas has a texting ban, as well as additional restrictions for the over-21 driver, and a handheld cell phone ban for 18-20-year-olds and school bus drivers.
- California was one of the first states to institute a cell phone ban and text messaging ban.
- Colorado has a cell phone ban for drivers under 18, and all text messaging is banned for all drivers.
- In Connecticut, a hand-held cell phone ban is in effect as well as a text messaging ban on all drivers under 18.
- Delaware has handheld phone bans also for learner or intermediate licensed.
- In the District of Columbia, texting is banned for all drivers, and cell phone use is banned for novices and school bus drivers.
- Currently, the sunshine state of Florida has no bans on texting or cell phone use while driving, although several proposals have been introduced in the state legislature.
- Georgia bans cell phone use to school bus drivers and those under 18, and bans texting for all drivers.
- Hawaii does not have a cell phone or texting ban, but local distracted driver ordinances in many Hawaii counties frequently serve as a “de facto” cell phone ordinance.
- Idaho’s texting ban went into effect on July 1, 2012, but does not apply to hands-free devices.
- Illinois has a texting ban, and its handheld cell phone ban applies in school zones and road construction zones. Additionally, Illinois prohibits school bus drivers and novice drivers 19 and under from using cell phones or texting.
- Indiana, Iowa, and Kansas ban handheld cell phones for drivers with a learners permit. Primary offense texting bans are also in effect in those states.
- Kentucky bans texting for all drivers, and bans cell phone use for school bus drivers and drivers under the age of 18.
- Texting is banned for residents of Louisiana that use handheld cell phones to text. Additionally, Louisiana bans handheld cell phones for learners, intermediate, first year licensing, and school bus drivers.
- In Maine, only novices age 18 and under are banned from handheld cell phones. Texting is banned for all Maine drivers.
- In Maryland, novice drivers and bus drivers are banned from using handheld cell phone, but it is a secondary offense. A secondary offense means police may not pull over a vehicle for the offense, but may issue a ticket if the vehicle is pulled over for another reason. Text messaging is banned for all Maryland drivers, and is a primary offense.
- Massachusetts and Minnesota have a handheld cell phone ban for school bus drivers, and a texting ban for all drivers.
- In Michigan, texting is banned for all drivers, but there are currently no laws restricting handheld cell phone use.
- Mississippi only bans school bus drivers from using handheld cell phones. Text messaging is banned for school bus drivers and learners, or for those with a provisional license.
- Missouri only bans texting for those under 21.
- In Montana, there are no statewide bans whatsoever. However, several large metropolitan areas have implemented their own bans. In Billings, Missoula, and Whitefish, texting and cell phone use while driving is prohibited. In Whitefish, the law extends to bicyclists as well. Butte and Helena have ordinances against the use of handheld phones while driving
- Nebraska bans handheld cell phone use for novice drivers, and bans text messaging for all drivers.
- Nevada bans handheld cell phones and texting for all drivers.
- New Hampshire has a texting ban as well as a distracted driver law, which can apply to cell phone use.
- New Jersey bans all handheld cell phone use for all drivers.
- In New Mexico, handheld cell phones are banned for state vehicles, and novice drivers are prohibited from texting.
- In New York, all hand held cell phones are banned for all drivers – including text messaging.
- North Carolina banned handheld cell phones for school bus drivers and texting for all drivers.
- North Dakota and Ohio have banned hand held cell phones for novice drivers and texting for all drivers.
- Oklahoma bans handheld cell phones and texting for learner or intermediate license drivers and school bus drivers.
- Oregon banned handheld cell phones for all drivers and novice drivers. The same applies to texting.
- Pennsylvania has banned texting while driving for all drivers.
- In Rhode Island, cell phone use is banned for drivers under 18 and school bus drivers. Texting is banned for all drivers.
- South Carolina has no statewide ban, although several proposals have been hotly debated in the state legislature. Several South Carolina communities have passed distracted driving laws that specifically apply to texting.
- South Dakota has no bans on texting or using a cell phone while driving.
- Tennessee has a ban on all handheld cell phones for school bus drivers and novice drivers, and a texting ban for all drivers.
- Texas has a ban on handheld cell phones and texting for school bus drivers, drivers in school zones, and novice drivers. Same goes for texting.
- Utah bans all texting while driving, and its careless driving while distracted law applies to use of handheld cell phone or other activities not related to driving.
- Vermont bans cell phone use for novice drivers, and bans texting for all drivers.
- Even in the Virgin Islands, all handheld cell phones are banned while driving if the phone has texting capabilities.
- In the state of Virginia, all texting while driving is prohibited. In addition, handheld cell phones are banned for school bus drivers and novice drivers.
- The state of Washington bans texting and other handheld use for all drivers, and bans cellphone use (hands-free or otherwise) for drivers with a learner’s permit or intermediate license.
- In West Virginia, handheld cell phone texting while driving is banned.
- Wisconsin bans handheld cell phones for novice drivers, and bans texting for all drivers.
- Finally, in the state of Wyoming all texting is banned for drivers.
Compiled by Jennifer S. O’Reilly and Bill Richards
Photo used with permission