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Cellphone laws and penalties by state


Georgia in July became the 16th state to enact a hands-free cellphone law, making it illegal to hold your phone while driving, in a move meant to put some teeth into its existing driver texting ban. in 2010, Georgia banned texting and driving, but motorists were still allowed to use their hands to dial, which critics say made the law hard to enforce.  

Georgia's recent legislation comes at a time when distracted driving is a major issue out on the roads. According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) there were 3,450 deaths related to distracted driving in 2016. An additional 391,000 were injured due to distracted driving.

Laws regarding distracted driving vary by state. While the majority of states, 47 plus D.C., have laws in place that ban texting and driving, many states still allow drivers to talk on a phone behind the wheel. Most states also have different laws that pertain to young and inexperienced drivers.

Distracted driving laws can be complicated and if you receive a ticket for texting or talking behind the wheel it can impact your insurance rates. Many drivers are unaware of what exactly is legal in their own state when it comes to talking, texting and driving.

We compiled the lists below to show what the law is in each state as well as the fine you can expect if you are pulled over with a phone in your hand.

Woman driver talking on cellphone


Will a cellphone ticket raise my car insurance rates?

A texting ticket will raise your rates, on average, by 15 percent, according to a rate analysis by CarInsurance.com, though it could be as low as four percent or as high as 30 percent, depending on your state laws and driving record, among other factors.

Driver getting ticket"If the infraction goes on your driving record, assume you can get surcharged by insurers, raising your premium," warns Penny Gusner, consumer analyst for CarInsurance.com. "Insurers check your driving record when writing new policies, and typically every six months upon renewal, and will factor in any driving infractions using their own point system," she continues.

The rate hike will vary by insurer, but in the majority of cases it would be treated as a minor violation such as a low-level speeding ticket or running a red light. "Normally a rate increase will be the same as any other first infraction," says Gusner.

If you experience a sharp rate increase after a cellphone ticket, you may want to compare car insurance rates from other insurers. You'll probably find that some insurers are more forgiving than others when you shop around, she says.

 Cellphone bans and license points by state

 

StateTexting banTalking banLicense points?
AlabamaYesNoYes - 2 points on license
AlaskaYesNoNo
ArizonaNoNoNo
ArkansasYesSchool or Construction ZonesNo
CaliforniaYesYesNo
ColoradoYesNoYes - 4 Points
ConnecticutYesYesNo
DelawareYesYesNo
D.C.YesYesNo
FloridaYesNo

Yes - 3 points for second offense;

2 more points for school zone;

6 for accident

GeorgiaYesYesYes - 1 point
HawaiiYesYesNo
IdahoYesNoNo
IllinoisYesYesNo
IndianaYesNoNo
IowaYesNoNo
KansasYesNoNo
KentuckyYesNoYes - 3 Points
LouisianaYesNoNo
MaineYesNoNo
MarylandYesYesYes - 1 Point; 3 if accident
MassachusettsYesNoNo
MichiganYesNoNo
MinnesotaYesNoNo
MississippiYesNoNo
MissouriNoNoNo
MontanaNoNoNo
NebraskaYesNoYes - 3 Points
NevadaYesYesYes - 4 Points - Second Offense
New HampshireYesYesNo
New JerseyYesYesYes - 3 Points - Third Offense
New MexicoYesNoNo
New YorkYesYesYes - 5 Points
North CarolinaYesNoNo
North DakotaYesNoNo
OhioYesNoNo
OklahomaYesNoNo
OregonYesYesNo
PennsylvaniaYesNoNo
Rhode IslandYesYesNo
South CarolinaYesNoNo
South DakotaYesNoNo
TennesseeYesNoNo
TexasYesNoNo
UtahYesNoNo
VermontYesYes

Yes - 4 points for school and 

construction zones; 5 points 

for second offense

VirginiaYesNoYes-- 3 points
WashingtonYesYesNo
West VirginiaYesYesYes - 3 Points - Third Offense
WisconsinYesNoYes - 4 Points
WyomingYesNoNo


How many states ban texting and driving?

Laws regarding cellphone use and texting vary dramatically across the country and they can be confusing. In some states there are certain cities that have stricter laws on the books than the state law, making knowing where you can and cannot use your phone a bit of a mystery.

As it stands right now, in 47 states plus Washington D.C. it is illegal to text while driving. In the majority of states it is a primary law but there are a few outliers where texting and driving is only a secondary law.

If the law is primary it means that a police officer can pull a driver over and issue a ticket for using a cellphone while driving. The officer does not need any other reason to pull you over, other than the cellphone violation.

If the law is secondary, the police must pull a driver over for a different primary violation, as an example speeding or reckless driving. They then have the right to issue a ticket for a cellphone violation in addition to the primary offense. They cannot pull you over for a cellphone violation on its own if the law is secondary.

In order to add one more layer of confusion, many states have separate restrictions that only apply to younger, inexperienced drivers.


Driver texting and cellphone ticket penalties by state

The penalties for talking and texting on a cellphone can vary dramatically between states. At one point, texting while driving in Alaska was a misdemeanor, punishable by a year in jail and a $10,000 fine for a first offender. Luckily, the fine has been scaled back in recent years and now tops out at $500 in the Last Frontier.

While Alaska's fine was a bit over the top, texting or talking while driving can still be an expensive ticket in certain states. A first ticket in Oregon can result in a $1,000 ticket, which goes up to $2,500 for a second offense.

On the other end of the spectrum, in Wisconsin a texting while driving ticket is a measly $20. In the majority of states, fines run between $50 and $200.

 

Alabama

Penalty for talking: Not illegal

No cellphone sign overlay on traffic


Penalty for texting: $25 first offense

Points on license: 2 points

Alaska

Penalty for talking: Not illegal

Penalty for texting: Up to $500

Points on license: No points

Arizona

Penalty for talking: Not illegal

Penalty for texting: Not illegal

Points on license: No points

Teens are banned from using cell phones until have a graduated license or reach 18 First offense is $75 and restrictions on their license for 30 days. Second violation results in a $100 fine and restriction on their license for 60 days

Arkansas

Penalty for talking: Only illegal in school or construction zones

Penalty for texting: Up to $100

Points on license: No points

California

Penalty for talking: $20 first offense, $50 for additional ones

Penalty for texting: $20 first offense, $50 for additional ones

Points on license: No points

Colorado

Penalty for talking: Not illegal

Penalty for texting: $300

Points on license: 4 points

Connecticut

Penalty for talking: $150 first offense, $300 for second, $500 for third or more

Penalty for texting: $150 first offense, $300 for second, $500 for third or more

Points on license: No points

Delaware

Penalty for talking: $100 first offense, up to $300 for second or more

Penalty for texting: $100 first offense, up to $300 for second or more

Points on license: No points

Washington D.C.

Penalty for talking: $100

Penalty for texting: $100

Points on license: No points

Florida

Penalty for talking: Not illegal

Penalty for texting: $30

Points on license: 3 points for second offense; 2 more points for school zone; 6 for accident

Georgia

Penalty for talking: $50 first offense, $100 second, $150 third

Penalty for texting: $30

Points on license: 1 point

Hawaii

Penalty for talking: $250 first offense, $300 if in school or construction zone

Penalty for texting: $250 first offense, $300 if in school or construction zone

Points on license: No points

Idaho

Penalty for talking: Not illegal

Penalty for texting: $81.50

Points on license: No points

Illinois

Penalty for talking: $75 first offense, $100 second, $125 third

Penalty for texting: $75 first offense, $100 second, $125 third

Points on license: No points

Indiana

Penalty for talking: Not illegal

Penalty for texting: Up to $500

Points on license: No points

Iowa

Penalty for talking: Not illegal

Penalty for texting: $30 - Court costs push it up to $100

Points on license: No points

Kansas

Penalty for talking: Not illegal

Penalty for texting: $60

Points on license: No points

Kentucky

Penalty for talking: Not illegal

Penalty for texting: $25 first offense, $50 each additional

Points on license: 3 points

Louisiana

Penalty for talking: Not illegal

Penalty for texting: $500 first offense, $1,000 each additional

Points on license: No points

Maine

Penalty for talking: Not illegal

Penalty for texting: $250 first offense, up to $500 each additional

Points on license: No points

Maryland

Penalty for talking: $75 first offense, $125 second, $175 third

Penalty for texting: $500

Points on license: 1 point; 3 if an accident

Massachusetts

Penalty for talking: Not illegal

Penalty for texting: $100 first offense, $250 second, $500 third

Points on license: No points

Michigan

Penalty for talking: Not illegal

Penalty for texting: $100 first offense, $200 second and more

Points on license: No points

Minnesota

Penalty for talking: Not illegal

Penalty for texting: $50 first offense, $225 second and more

Points on license: No points

Mississippi

Penalty for talking: Not illegal

Penalty for texting: $100

Points on license: No points

Missouri

Penalty for talking: Not illegal

Penalty for texting: Not Illegal

Points on license: No points

Montana

Penalty for talking: Not illegal

Penalty for texting: Not Illegal

Points on license: No points

Nebraska

Penalty for talking: Not illegal

Penalty for texting: $200 first offense, $300 second, $500 third and more

Points on license: 3 points

Nevada

Penalty for talking: $50 first offense, $100 second, $250 third and more

Penalty for texting: $50 first offense, $100 second, $250 third and more

Points on license: 4 points for second offense or more

New Hampshire

Penalty for talking: $100 first offense, $250 second, $500 third or more

Penalty for texting: $100 first offense, $250 second, $500 third or more

Points on license: No points

New Jersey

Penalty for talking: $200-$400 first offense, $400-$600 second, $600-$800 third or more

Penalty for texting: : $200-$400 first offense, $400-$600 second, $600-$800 third or more

Points on license: 3 points for third offense or more

New Mexico

Penalty for talking: Not illegal

Penalty for texting: $25 first offense, $50 second

Points on license: No points

New York

Penalty for talking: Up to $200 first offense, Up to $250 second, Up to $450 third

Penalty for texting: Up to $200 first offense, Up to $250 second, Up to $450 third

Points on license: 5 points

North Carolina

Penalty for talking: Not illegal

Penalty for texting: $100

Points on license: No points

North Dakota

Penalty for talking: Not illegal

Penalty for texting: $100

Points on license: No points

Ohio

Penalty for talking: Not illegal

Penalty for texting: Up to $150

Points on license: No points

Oklahoma

Penalty for talking: Not illegal

Penalty for texting: $100

Points on license: No points

Oregon

Penalty for talking: Up to $1,000 first offense, Up to $2,500 second, Up to $2,500 and 6 months in jail third and more

Penalty for texting: Up to $1,000 first offense, Up to $2,500 second, Up to $2,500 and 6 months in jail third and more

Points on license: No points

Pennsylvania

Penalty for talking: Not illegal

Penalty for texting: $50

Points on license: No points

Rhode Island

Penalty for talking: $100

Penalty for texting: $100

Points on license: No points

South Carolina

Penalty for talking: Not illegal

Penalty for texting: $25

Points on license: No points

South Dakota

Penalty for talking: Not illegal

Penalty for texting: $100

Points on license: No points

Tennessee

Penalty for talking: Not illegal

Penalty for texting: $50

Points on license: No points

Texas

Penalty for talking: Not illegal

Penalty for texting: Up to $99 first offense, Up to $200 second

Points on license: No points

Utah

Penalty for talking: Not illegal

Penalty for texting: Up to $750 first offense

Points on license: No points

Vermont

Penalty for talking: Up to $200 first offense, up to $500 second

Penalty for texting: Up to $200 first offense, up to $500 second

Points on license: No

Virginia

Penalty for talking: Not illegal

Penalty for texting: $125 first offense, $250 second

Points on license: 3 points

Washington

Penalty for talking: $136 first offense $234 Second

Penalty for texting: $136 first offense $234 Second

Points on license: No points

West Virginia

Penalty for talking: $100 first offense $200 Second, $300 third

Penalty for texting: $100 first offense $200 Second, $300 third

Points on license: 3 points for the third offense

Wisconsin

Penalty for talking: Not illegal

Penalty for texting: Up to $400

Points on license: 4 points

Wyoming

Penalty for talking: Not illegal

Penalty for texting: $75

Points on license: No points

 

States with all cellphone ban for novice drivers

Teen and novice drivers face strict cellphone restrictions in many states but the laws can vary dramatically. Some states ban cellphone use outright for anyone under the age of 18 while others only ban cellphones for drivers with a learner's permit and still others put no restrictions at all on novice drivers when it comes to using a cellphone.

Total cellphone ban for drivers under 18-21:

  • Arkansas: Secondary
  • California: Secondary
  • Colorado: Primary
  • No handheld phone signConnecticut: Primary
  • Georgia: Primary 
  • Hawaii: Primary
  • Illinois: Primary - Anyone under 19
  • Indiana: Primary - Anyone under 21
  • Kansas: Primary
  • Kentucky: Primary
  • Louisiana: Primary
  • Maine: Primary
  • Maryland: Primary
  • Massachusetts: Primary
  • Minnesota: Primary
  • Missouri: Primary
  • Nebraska: Secondary
  • New Hampshire: Primary
  • New York: Primary
  • North Carolina: Primary
  • North Dakota: Primary
  • Ohio: Primary
  • Oregon: Primary
  • Rhode Island: Primary
  • Texas: Primary
  • Utah: Primary
  • Vermont: Primary
  • Virginia: Secondary
  • West Virginia: Primary

 

The following states have other restrictions in place related to young or novice drivers and some states have no restrictions at all when it comes to young drivers:

  • Alabama: Cellphone ban for 16 and 17 year olds with less than 6 months experience - Primary
  • Alaska: No restrictions
  • Arizona: Prohibits the use of cellphones while driving for the first six months after receiving a graduated license or until the age of 18 - Secondary
  • Delaware: Cellphone ban for drivers with intermediate licenses and learner's permits - Primary
  • Washington DC: Cellphone ban for drivers on learner permit - Primary
  • Florida: No restrictions
  • Idaho: No restrictions
  • Iowa: Cellphone ban for drivers that have their intermediate license or learner's permit - Primary
  • Michigan: Cellphone ban for drivers with Level 1 or 2 License
  • Mississippi: No restrictions
  • Montana: No restrictions
  • New Jersey: Cellphone ban for drivers with an intermediate license or a learner's permit - Primary
  • New Mexico: Cellphone ban for drivers with a learner or provisional license
  • Oklahoma: Cellphone ban for drivers with an intermediate license or a learner's permit: Primary
  • Pennsylvania: No restrictions
  • South Carolina: No restrictions
  • South Dakota: Cellphone ban for drivers with a learner or intermediate license
  • Tennessee: Cellphone ban for drivers on learner or intermediate license - Primary
  • Washington: Cellphone ban for drivers who have an intermediate license or learner's permit - Primary
  • Wisconsin: Cellphone ban for drivers with an intermediate license or a learner's permit - Primary
  • Wyoming: No restrictions

 


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