A state-by-state guide to fines for cell phone usage while driving
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Distracted driving is on the rise in the United States, and officials are making drivers pay for it through fines and, in extreme cases, jail time. Distracted driving is considered to be anything that takes your attention away from driving, such as talking and texting on your phone (even hands-free), eating and drinking, or viewing navigation systems.
Although there are many forms of distracted driving, not all forms are illegal, according to local and state laws. The majority of regulations we will focus on in this article surround cell phone usage while driving, which includes texting and driving. To help you navigate the various regulations throughout the U.S., we have compiled a general list of laws for cell phone use while driving, including for commercial drivers and teens.
Fines for texting while driving range from $25 for first-time violations to over $1,000 for subsequent severe violations. Depending on the severity and the state, some violations could require court appearances, community service, or even jail time.
Under the law, text messaging includes composing a message, reading a message, accessing an app, and reading social media sites. Hand-held phone usage is considered to be tasks such as making and receiving calls.
It is best to become familiar with cell phone use in all of the states where you drive and consult your local DMV for the latest specifics. These are the hand-held phone and text messaging laws in each U.S. state:
|State||Hand-held ban||Cell phones banned for all young drivers||Texting ban||Enforcement||Penalties||Fines for texting and driving||Points per violation|
|Alabama||None||16-year-old drivers or 17-year-old drivers with intermediate licenses for less than 6 months||Yes, all drivers||Primary||Fine||$25 for first offense, $50 for second offense, $75 for third or subsequent offense||2|
|Alaska||None||None||Yes, all drivers||Primary||Fine||Maximum $500 fine||2|
|Arizona||Yes, all drivers||Anyone with learner’s permits and intermediate licenses during the first 6 months after they receive their licenses||Yes, all drivers||Primary, or secondary for anyone with learner’s permits and intermediate licenses during the first 6 months after they receive their licenses||Fine||$75-$149 for first offense, $150-$250 for subsequent offenses||2|
|Arkansas||Yes, for drivers ages 18-21 and for those in school and highway work zones||Yes, drivers under age 18||Yes, all drivers||Primary||Fine||$25-$250 for first offense, $50-$500 for subsequent offenses; fines may double if texting while driving causes an accident||2|
|California||Yes, all drivers||Yes, drivers under age 18||Yes, all drivers||Primary for hand-held and texting by drivers 18 and older, secondary for drivers under age 18||Fine||$20 for first offense, $50 for each subsequent offense||1|
|Colorado||None||Yes, drivers under age 18||Yes, all drivers||Primary||Fine, possible imprisonment if involving injuries or death||Minors: $50 for first offense, $100 for subsequent offenses
Adults: $300 for each offense, possible $1,000 fine if someone is injured in an accident caused by texting while driving
|Connecticut||Yes, all drivers||Yes, drivers under age 18||Yes, all drivers||Primary||Fine||$150 for first offense, $300 for second offense, $500 for each subsequent offense||1|
|Delaware||Yes, all drivers||Anyone with learner’s permits and intermediate licenses||Yes, all drivers||Primary||Fine||$100 for first offense, $200-$300 for subsequent offenses||2|
|District of Columbia||Yes, all drivers||Yes, drivers under age 18||Yes, all drivers||Primary||Fine||$100 for each offense||0|
|Florida||Yes, banned in school and work zones (must use hands-free devices)||None||Yes, all drivers||Primary||Fine||$30 for first offense, $60 for second offense within 5 years of first; for violating law in school and work zones, $60 for each offense||0 for first offense, 3 for subsequent offenses within 5 years of first, 3 for violations in school and work zones|
|Georgia||Yes, all drivers||None||Yes, all drivers||Primary||Fine||$50 for first offense, $100 for second and $150 for third offense if within 24 months of first offense||1 for first offense, 2 for second, 3 for third|
|Hawaii||Yes, all drivers||Yes, drivers under age 18||Yes, all drivers||Primary||Fine||$250 for each offense, $300 for violations in a school or construction zone||None|
|Idaho||Yes, all drivers||None||Yes, all drivers||Primary||Fine||$75 for first offense, $150 for second offense within a 3-year period, $300 for each subsequent offense within a 3-year period||0 for first offense, 1 for each subsequent offense|
|Illinois||Yes, all drivers||Yes, for drivers and learner’s permit holders under age 19||Yes, all drivers||Primary||Fine||$75 for first offense, $100 for second offense, $125 for third offense, $150 for fourth and subsequent offenses||5|
|Indiana||Yes, all drivers||Yes, drivers younger than 21||Yes, all drivers||Primary||Fine||Up to $500 for each offense||2 for each offense|
|Iowa||None||Anyone with learner’s permits and intermediate licenses||Yes, all drivers||Primary||Fine||$45 for each offense||2|
|Kansas||None||Anyone with learner’s permits and intermediate licenses||Yes, all drivers||Primary||Fine||$60 for each offense||None|
|Kentucky||None||Yes, drivers under age 18||Yes, all drivers||Primary||Fine||$25 for first offense, $50 for subsequent offenses||3|
|Louisiana||Yes, for drivers in signed school zones||Yes, all novice drivers||Yes, statewide ban for all drivers||Primary law, secondary law for novice drivers ages 18 and above||Fine||$25-$500 for first offense and possible community service at judge’s discretion; each subsequent violation punishable by a fine of no more than $1,000, a 60-day driver’s license suspension, and possible community service at judge’s discretion||None|
|Maine||Yes, all drivers||Anyone with learner’s permits and intermediate licenses||Yes, all drivers||Primary||Fine, license suspension for 30-90 days for subsequent violations within 3-year period||No less than $250 for first offense, no less than $500 for subsequent offenses within 3-year period||2|
|Maryland||Yes, all drivers||Yes, drivers under age 18||Yes, all drivers||Primary||Fine||$70, which includes court fees; $110 if the violation results in a car crash||1, or 3 if violation results in a car crash|
|Massachusetts||Yes, all drivers (must use hands-free devices)||Yes, drivers under age 18||Yes, all drivers||Primary||Fine, distracted driving educational program completion after second offense, insurance surcharge after third offense||$100 for first offense, $250 for second offense, $500 for subsequent offenses||2|
|Michigan||Truck drivers, school bus drivers, and teen drivers with Level 1 or 2 graduated licensing status prohibited from hand-held device use (must use hands-free devices)||Anyone with learner’s permits and intermediate licenses levels 1 and 2; OK to use integrated voice-operated systems||Yes, all drivers||Primary||Fine||$100 for first offense, $200 for subsequent offenses||0 for regular motorists, 2 for school bus or commercial driver violators|
|Minnesota||Yes, all drivers||Anyone with a learner’s permit and provisional licenses during the first year after licensing||Yes, all drivers||Primary||Fine, potential for increased insurance rates; if you injure or kill someone under the hands-free law, possible felony charge of criminal vehicular operation or homicide||At least $120 for first offense, which includes the fine plus court fees; at least $300 for subsequent offenses, which includes the fine plus court fees||None|
|Mississippi||No, but ban for commercial drivers||None||Yes, all drivers||Primary||Fine||$100||None|
|Missouri||No, but ban for commercial truck and bus drivers and interstate drivers||None||Yes, commercial vehicle operators and drivers 21 and younger||Primary||Fine||$200||2|
|Montana||None statewide; use of hand-held cell phones while driving restricted in some local cities||None||None statewide; texting while driving restricted in some cities||Not applicable||None||None||None|
|Nebraska||Yes, all drivers||Yes, anyone with learner’s permits and intermediate licenses under age 18||Yes||Secondary||Fine||$200 for first offense, $300 for second offense, $500 for subsequent offenses||3|
|Nevada||Yes, all drivers||None||Yes, all drivers||Primary||Fine||$50 for first offense, $100 for second offense if within 7 years of the first, $250 for subsequent offenses||4 for second and subsequent offenses|
|New Hampshire||Yes, all drivers||Yes, drivers under age 18||Yes, all drivers||Primary||Fine, possible license suspension for violators under age 18||$100 for first offense, $250 for second offense, $500 for subsequent offenses within a 24-month period||2|
|New Jersey||Yes, all drivers||Anyone with learner’s permits and intermediate licenses||Yes, all drivers||Primary||Fine, possible license suspension||$200-$400 for first offense, $400-$600 for second offense, $600-$800 for subsequent offenses||3 for third and subsequent offenses|
|New Mexico||No, but banned for commercial drivers||Anyone with learner’s permits and intermediate licenses||Yes, all drivers||Primary||Fine||$25 for first offense, $50 for subsequent offenses||0|
|New York||Yes, all drivers||None||Yes, all drivers||Primary||Fine||Up to $200 for first offense, up to $250 for second offense within 18 months, up to $450 for subsequent offenses||5|
|North Carolina||No, but banned for commercial drivers||Yes, drivers under age 18||Yes, all drivers||Primary||Fine||$100||1|
|North Dakota||No, but banned when driving a state fleet vehicle||Yes, drivers under age 18||Yes, all drivers||Primary||Fine||$100; $20 for violators ages 14-17||4 for 14- and 15-year-old violators|
|Ohio||None||Yes, drivers under age 18||Yes, all drivers||Secondary, but primary for drivers under age 18||Fine; license suspension for drivers under 18||$150 for first offense, $300 for drivers under 18 for second offense||2|
|Oklahoma||None||Anyone with learner’s permits and intermediate licenses||Yes, all drivers||Primary||Fine||$100||0|
|Oregon||Yes, all drivers||Yes, drivers under age 18||Yes, all drivers||Primary||Fine||Up to $1,000 for first offense, up to $2,000 for second offense, up to $2,500 within 10 years and possible 6-month jail time||None|
|Pennsylvania||None||None||Yes, all drivers||Primary||Fine||$50||0|
|Rhode Island||Yes, all drivers||Yes, drivers under age 18||Yes, all drivers||Primary||Fines and possible license suspension for up to 30 days for first offense, 3 months for second offense, and 6 months for subsequent offenses||$100 for first offense, $150 for second offense, $250 for each subsequent offense||None|
|South Carolina||None||None||Yes, all drivers||Primary||Fine||$25||0|
|South Dakota||None||Anyone with learner’s permits and intermediate licenses||Yes, all drivers||Primary or secondary for anyone with learner’s permits and intermediate licenses||Fine||$100||0|
|Tennessee||Yes, all drivers||Anyone with learner’s permits and intermediate licenses||Yes, all drivers||Primary||Fine||$50 for first and second offense, $100 for third and subsequent offenses||3, or 6 for those under 18|
|Texas||Yes, for anyone driving in school crossing zones and on public school property when the reduced speed limit applies||Yes, drivers under age 18||Yes, all drivers||Primary||Fine||$25-$100 for first offense, $100-$200 for subsequent offenses||0|
|Utah||Yes, but only enforceable if another moving traffic violation is committed at the same time||Yes, drivers under age 18||Yes, all drivers||Primary||Fine||$100 for first offense, up to $1,000 and possible jail time for subsequent offenses within 3 years||50|
|Vermont||Yes, all drivers||Yes, drivers under age 18||Yes, all drivers||Primary||Fine||$100-$200 for first offense, $250-$500 for subsequent offenses within 2 years||2|
|Virginia||Yes, all drivers||None||Yes, all drivers||Primary||Fine||$125 for first offense, $250 for subsequent offenses||3|
|Washington||Yes, all drivers||Anyone with learner’s permits and intermediate licenses||Yes, all drivers||Primary||Fine||$136 for first offense, $234 for subsequent offenses within 5 years||None|
|West Virginia||Yes, all drivers||Yes, drivers under age 18 who hold either a learner’s permit or an intermediate license||Yes, all drivers||Primary||Fine||$100 for first offense, $200 for second offense, $300 for subsequent offense||3 for third or subsequent offense|
|Wisconsin||Yes, for anyone driving in highway construction areas||Anyone with learner’s permits and intermediate licenses||Yes, all drivers||Primary||Fine||$20-$40 for first offense, $50-$100 for subsequent offenses||4|
|Wyoming||None statewide, but restricted use of hand-held devices in some cities||None||Yes, all drivers||Primary||Fine||$75||None|
Virginia launched its ban on hand-held devices for all drivers recently on Jan. 1, 2021.1
More than 220 million people in the U.S. have mobile phones, and research suggests that as much as 80 percent of Americans use their phones while driving.2
As a result, there are now more distracted drivers on the road than in years past. In the U.S., about eight people per day die in car crashes related to distracted driving, according to a report from the U.S. Centers for Disease and Control3 based on data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Crashes involving at least one distracted driver totaled 3,142, representing nearly 9 percent of all car crash fatalities in 2019, up almost 10 percent from 2018.4
This number pales in comparison to fatal auto crashes due to drowsy drivers, which came to 697, or almost 2 percent of total fatalities in 2019, down 11 percent from a year earlier. In addition, an AT&T survey found that 75 percent of 15- to 24-year-olds have driven distracted at least once a month, and 68 percent have read texts, emails, or social media while driving.5
The NHTSA is investigating further key areas of texting while driving. According to its estimates, sending text messages is the most distracting activity because it takes your eyes off of the road for five seconds. Cambridge Mobile Telematics measured data related to cell phone distraction between March and April 2020, and its findings revealed that almost 17 percent of all crashes involved phone use five seconds before impact.6
Notably, there’s also a growing trend of people using social media while driving, which has resulted in lawsuits and fatalities. For this reason, restrictions are in place throughout the U.S.
For drivers with CDLs, texting is prohibited in all 50 states, and most states have bans on using hand-held phones. In 2012, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration put a federal cell phone law in place that supersedes state law.7 Under federal law, CDL holders can be fined or have their licenses revoked for using hand-held cell phones while driving.
Although commercial drivers are subject to the most stringent hand-held laws, a commercial driver can use a communication device to relay information between a transit or for-hire operator and the operator’s dispatcher. The device must be permanently factory-installed in the vehicle, like a CB radio. The drivers can also use hands-free devices such as GPS systems.
According to the NHTSA, if a teen driver is found violating a texting-while-driving law, and this driver is in a state with graduated driver licensing (GDL), the teen could face a delayed or suspended license.
All 50 states and Washington, D.C., have some sort of GDL program with multistep timelines and practice hours before allowing teens to gain driver’s licenses, although some states have more stringent rules than others. Our multistate chart in the earlier section contains an overview of what laws are on the books for teens, but be sure to check your state and local DMV for more information.
In response to the rise of distracted driving, lawmakers in states that previously allowed nonrestricted driving while using hand-held cell phones have circulated more restrictive bills in local and state legislatures. Although many of these lawmakers have pushed for more restrictions, many of the bills in these states have failed to pass in states that already allow hand-held device use.
To the chagrin of lawmakers trying to pass more restrictive legislative bills against using cell phones on the road, drivers continue to use hand-held cell phones despite the availability of hands-free technology, according to the NHTSA report. This is a key area the NHTSA is investigating.
Complex cell phone “sub-tasks” such as text messaging, dialing, and locating a cell phone are associated with an increased crash risk, the report found. Therefore, it is best to avoid all of these sub-tasks or automate them if you are unsure about the laws in your state.
Set your phone to “do not disturb,” or automate it to send “not available” messages. In fact, you can activate hands-free automated responses or voice assistants on many newer Android and iPhones that convert speech to text.
In the case you are caught unknowingly violating the law, here are the main steps we suggest.
There are major risks with using a cell phone while driving as it pertains to business operations. If your employees use vehicles to do any work-related task, your business could be at risk. For example, if your employee gets in an accident because they were violating a texting-and-driving law during a company errand, there could be legal implications for your business.
Most business car insurance plans, as well as personal care insurance plans, do not cover legal costs associated with violating laws. Therefore, your business could be liable for certain costs if your employee was found breaking hand-held and texting laws while driving and the injured party sues your company.
Certain states have no-fault laws, although a person can still file an injury claim if it meets certain thresholds according to the state where the accident occurred. In severe cases, the state can charge drivers with reckless driving or negligent homicide if a person is killed as a result of the accident.
Even if your employee has agreed to not use their mobile phone while driving, be sure to buy both hired (when your business leases or rents a vehicle for operations) and non-owned (an employee who uses their personal car) auto insurance as a business owner. Contact your car insurance agent for coverage details, or learn more about non-owner insurance.
In most states, a first violation of cell phone usage while driving won’t result in a high increase in insurance rates if an accident isn’t involved. However, accidents and/or subsequent violations could result in a 10 to 40 percent increase in car insurance rates.10
Depending on the severity of the situation, there could even be a denial of coverage by the insurance carrier. One of the ways insurance carriers review the risk of a driver is the person’s driving record. Points on your driving record factor into the calculation of the cost of insurance.
Here are a few ways you can reduce your risk as it pertains to fines and distracted-driving accidents:
In summary, distracted driving has major consequences, including fines, increases in insurance rates, license suspension, accidents, and litigation. However, by becoming familiar with the law and following the best practices outlined in this report, you can mitigate risk for yourself, your business, or your family.
Now that we’ve given you a look at the consequences for cell phone usage while driving as well as ways to manage risk, here are some frequently asked questions.
Many states, such as Florida, prohibit the use of any hand-held wireless communication device while driving. Aside from cell phones, wireless communication devices include tablets, laptops, any hand-held two-way messaging devices, and electronic games. Exceptions include using a hand-held device for emergency services, reporting suspicious activity to the police, and receiving emergency traffic or emergency weather reports.
Whether or not you can get fined for using a hands-free device depends on your age and whether you are allowed to communicate via cell phone while driving.
In states like North Dakota, it is illegal for drivers under the age of 18 to talk on a cell phone while driving, even if it’s hands-free. If you are unsure of the laws in your state, the best practice is to set your phone to “do not disturb” and/or automate your phone to send “not available” messages. Many newer Android and iPhones can send out automated text responses such as “Driving. Can’t talk right now.”
In most states, no, you aren’t allowed to text at a red light or stop sign. However, there is a legal loophole in certain states.
For instance, in New York and Missouri, texting while the vehicle is stopped is legal; only texting while the vehicle is in motion is banned. However, your foot needs to be on the brake, because if the car even moves an inch while you are texting, it becomes illegal. Be sure to review your most recent state and local laws for specifics.
You should opt for a cell phone holder on the dashboard of your car for GPS navigation, because even holding your cell phone in your hand to navigate is prohibited in many places across the U.S.
The laws are becoming stricter as distracted driving becomes more commonplace. For instance, although Kentucky doesn’t have a ban on hand-held devices currently, it is moving to ban holding a phone, electronic gadget, or tablet even while navigating. It is a best driving practice to have everything factory-installed or hands-free within a holster on your dashboard and in your line of sight.
Cellphone use laws by state. IIHS. (2022, Jan).
Distracted Driving | Cellphone Use. NCSL. (2021, Jul 20).
Distracted Driving. CDC. (2021, Mar 2).
TRAFFIC SAFETY FACTS. NHTSA. (2020, Dec).
Take the Pledge to never drive distracted. AT&T. (2022).
The Harsh Realities of Phone Distraction. Cambridge Mobile Telematics. (2022).
Mobile Phone Restrictions Fact Sheet. FMCSA. (2013, Dec 30).
Phone-Down Kentucky Act (20 RS BR 863). Kentucky General Assembly.
Do auto insurance premiums go up after a claim?. III. (2022).
Online Distracted Driving Course. NSC. (2022).