State Cell Phone Laws in the US

In addition to federal guidelines and initiatives, many states within the U.S. have enacted or are planning to introduce their own cell phone/texting/distracted driving legislation.

The situation regarding these laws is regularly changing, and there are variations between the laws in different jurisdictions, so it is recommended that people keep themselves informed of the current status.

Below is an summarisation of the current status of various state laws (as at December 2010), plus some useful links to sites that maintain a constantly updated picture of state laws.

  • A jurisdiction-wide ban on driving while talking on a hand-held cell phone is in place in 9 states (California, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Utah, and Washington) and the District of Columbia (Utah has named the offence “careless driving”). Note that under the Utah law, it is not an offence for someone to speak on a cell phone unless they are also committing some other moving violation other than speeding.
  • Counties and towns may or may not need specific state statutory authority to ban cell phones or text messaging. Many localities have enacted restrictions on cell phone use including: Oahu, HI; Chicago, IL; Brookline, MA; Detroit, MI; Santa Fe, NM; Brooklyn, North Olmstead, and Walton Hills, OH; Conshohocken, Lebanon, and West Conshohocken, PA; Waupaca County, WI; and Cheyenne, WY.
  • Use of a cell phone while driving a school bus is prohibited in 19 states and the District of Columbia.
  • Use of a cell phone by novice drivers is restricted in 28 states and the District of Columbia.
  • Texting while driving is banned for all drivers in 30 states and the District of Columbia.
  • Novice drivers are banned from texting in 8 states (Alabama, Indiana, Maine, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, and West Virginia)
  • School bus drivers are banned from texting while driving in 2 states (Oklahoma and Texas)

Useful Links:

The Insurance Instititue for Highway Safety provides a cellphone laws page that presents the latest information they have in tabular and map form.

The National Safety Council provides a useful State Laws page that provides links to many resources.