Distracted Driving Laws

The Complete Guide to Distracted Driving Laws in Every State

Save Yourself a Ticket: Know Your State's Distracted Driving Laws

Parental guide to distracted driving

Table of Contents



1. What exactly is distracted driving?           5. How can I report distracted driving?
2. What states have laws against distracted driving?6. What does law enforcement say about reporting distracted driving?
3. What is the fine for distracted driving?7. Can I add Bluetooth to my car?
4. Does distracted driving increase my insurance rates?8. What are states doing to prevent distracted driving?

As long as there's been driving, there have been distractions. But there's no question that modern tech and conveniences like cell phones and drive-thru snacks have taken the distractions to a whole new, and dangerous, level.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that in 2018, 9% of all fatal crashes in the US could be attributed to distracted driving. In fact, distracted drivers were responsible for 3,166 accident-related deaths in that year alone.

Thankfully, nearly every state has begun creating laws to prohibit these problem behaviors while driving.

What Exactly Is Distracted Driving?

The definition of distracted driving is the practice of operating a motor vehicle while engaged in another activity that takes one's attention off the road. Makes sense, right?

When most people think of distracted driving, they typically think of cell phone use. But the National Safety Council says that only accounts for 1.6 million crashes annually, there are other problems out there too. 

Percentage of fatal crashes due to cell phone use or other distractions while driving

How often distracted driving plays a part in a fatal crash

In addition to cell phone use, the NHTSA includes the following reasons for accidents under the distracted driving umbrella

Manual distractions: When the driver takes their hands off the wheel

  • Example: Fiddling with the radio

Visual distractions: When the driver takes their eyes off the road

  • Example: Eyes drawn to a passenger, or something on the side of the road

Cognitive distractions: When the driver takes their mind off the act of driving

  • Example: Deep thoughts about what to make for dinner tonight

8 Shocking Statistics About Distracted Driving

  • Car crashes are the #1 killer of teens, and 58% can be attributed to distracted driving.
  • Just 3 seconds of taking your eyes off the road can lead to a crash. And the average text takes five seconds to read.
  • More than 80% of drivers admit to having engaged in hazardous activities while driving, such as putting on makeup, using their knees to steer, or changing clothes.
  • Driver attention to the road can decrease by as much as 40% when listening to a conversation or music.
  • The NHTSA has found that eating while driving increases your risk of an accident by 80%.
  • You are six times more likely to get into an accident while texting than while driving drunk.
  • 94% of teenagers understand that texting while driving is dangerous, but 35% admit that they do it anyway.
  • The FCC reports that during daylight hours, approximately 481,000 motorists are using cell phones while driving at any given time.

Which States Have Laws against Distracted Driving?

Currently, every state in the US has a law that prohibits some sort of cell phone usage except Montana and Arizona. But in 2021, Arizona will officially roll out new laws for all drivers, so Montana will be the only state left without such a law.

Compare your state to the rest of the US when it comes to texting and driving restrictions

States that have laws against texting and driving


What Is the Fine for Distracted Driving?

Totally depends on where you live. The fines for violating cell phone usage laws while driving vary by state. The most expensive fines in the US are in Alaska and Utah, while some of the least expensive are in Kentucky and South Carolina. 

StateFine/Penalty
AlabamaFine of $25 for first offense, increased fines for subsequent offenses
AlaskaFine of $500
ArizonaLaws against texting go into effect in 2021 and will carry fines of $149 to $250
ArkansasFines of up to $100
CaliforniaFine of $25 for first offense, $50 for subsequent offenses
ColoradoFine of $50 for first offense, $100 for subsequent offenses
ConnecticutFines of up to $125
DelawareFine of $50 for first offense, up to $300 for subsequent offenses
District of ColumbiaFines ranging from $100 to $200
FloridaFine of $30 per offense
GeorgiaFine of $150 per offense, plus one point added to your driving record
HawaiiFines starting at $297
IdahoFines of up to $85
IllinoisFines of up to $75
IndianaFines of up to $500
IowaFine is $30, but can go up to $1,000 if your cell phone use results in a collision
KansasFines of up to $60
KentuckyFine of $25
LouisianaFines starting at $175
MaineFine of $100
MarylandFines of up to $100
MassachusettsFine of $100 for first offense; $250 for subsequent offenses
MichiganFines of up to $100
MinnesotaFines of $50 to $275
MississippiFines of up to $100
MissouriFines of up to $200, applies only to teen or novice drivers and school bus drivers
MontanaN/A; there are no laws prohibiting cell phone use while driving in this state
NebraskaFines of up to $200, plus up to three points added to your driving record
NevadaFines starting at $50
New HampshireFine of $100
New JerseyFines of up to $400
New MexicoFines starting at $25
New YorkFines for a first offense can be as high as $200
North CarolinaFine of $100
North DakotaFine of $100
OhioFine of $100 -- If under 18, the fine is $150 plus a six-month suspension of your license
OklahomaFines start at $100 and can include the suspension of your drivers license
OregonFines of up to $500
PennsylvaniaFines start at $50
Rhode IslandFine of $85
South CarolinaFine of $25
South DakotaFine of $100
TennesseeFine of $50 plus a court fee of $10
TexasThere is no statewide law, but 100 cities in the state have their own laws and penalties
UtahFine of $750 plus up to 3 months in jail; if texting results in accident with injuries or death, the fine is $10,000 plus up to 15 years in jail
VermontFines up to $200 for first offense; $250 to $500 for subsequent offenses
VirginiaFines up to $125
WashingtonFine of $124
West VirginiaFine of $100 for first offense; $200 for second offense; $300 plus three points on driving record for each subsequent offense
WisconsinFines from $20 to $400 with a possible four points added to the offender's driving record
WyomingFines up to $75

Does Distracted Driving Increase My Insurance Rates?

Even if you've never had a moving violation in your entire driving career,  the distracted driving epidemic has probably already caused your insurance rates to go up. Since the use of smartphones has increased over the last decade, so has the number of accidents and the severity of injuries sustained in these accidents. 

As a result, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) reports that overall auto insurance premiums have increased by 16% since 2011.

It should be fairly obvious that distracted driving increases your risk of being in an accident, so even if you live in a state like Montana, where texting while driving is legal, if you're in an accident while doing so, you'll see a rate increase.

How Can I Report a Distracted Driver?

Say you’re driving down the road and you’re passed by a driver who's having a little FaceTime chat on their cell phone. Or what if you see some driver swerving between lanes and you think they may be intoxicated, but it turns out they are watching videos on their phone? What can you do?

Our experts reached out to law enforcement to see how we should handle this situation in the moment, and they responded by saying they prefer that you NOT report distracted driving.  Wait, what? Why?

Why Should We Not Report Distracted Drivers?

Because they are unable take any action based on just your call, and because reporting a distracted driver could jeopardize your safety. They prefer that you leave the distracted driver alone, and leave it up to the long arm of the law to catch these drivers in the act themselves.

If you feel like a distracted driver is posing a serious danger to you, others or themselves, and you decide you just have to contact law enforcement, here are the do’s and don’ts you should know:

Do:

  • Maintain a safe distance from the distracted driver: For your own safety, you'll want to make sure you've got a good distance between you in case the driver suddenly brakes or swerves. You can also pull over, if it's a safe time and place to do so. 
  • Get information about the driver and vehicle: This is easier if you have a passenger in the car who can record information such as license plate number, vehicle make, model and color, and a general description of the driver, if you can see them.
  • Notify the authorities: Only call 911 if the driver is posing a clear and imminent danger to others. Otherwise, you can call the local police station’s non-emergency line when you get back home. Do not call the authorities while you're driving. Either have someone else in the car do it for you, or pull over and make the call yourself. Again, this is only for emergency situations. If you just want to report that someone is engaging in dangerous behavior, it can wait until you get home.

Do Not:

  • Follow the driver to see where they live or where they are going.
  • Confront the driver. You could be putting yourself in danger.
  • Attempt to record video footage of the dangerous driver while you yourself are driving. If you want to get video footage, have a passenger in your car do it. If you have no passengers, you should not get video.

My State Has a Hands-Free Law, Can I Add Bluetooth to My Car?

Yes.  Please do.

You can add Bluetooth to your vehicle for less than $30. If you're looking to spend more money for more features, popular brands also sell products that meet similar technology requirements found in new cars today. Below are a few of our favorites.

Bluetooth Products Model Rating Price Features
Anker Smart F2
Anker
ROAV Smart F2
Anker Smart F2
$24.99
Wireless
Smart Phone Compatible
Bluetooth
Hands-Free Calling
Anker Roav Smart F3
Anker
ROAV Smart F3
Anker Smart F3 Rating
$29.99
Wireless
Smart Phone Compatible
Bluetooth
Hands-Free Calling
Scosche BTFreq
Scosche
BTFreq
Scosche
$30.99
Wireless
Smart Phone Compatible
Bluetooth
Hands-Free Calling
Kenwood In-Dash
Kenwood
In-Dash:
KMM-BT325U
Kenwood In-Dash Rating
$89.99
Smart Phone Compatible Bluetooth Enabled Satellite Ready Detachable Hands-Free Calling
Pioneer In-Dash
Pioneer
In-Dash:
DEH-S412OBT
Pioneer In-Dash Rating
$89.99
Smart Phone Compatible Bluetooth Enabled Detachable Hands-Free Calling
Alpine In-Dash
Alpine
In-Dash:
UTE-73BT
Alpine In-Dash Rating
$99.99
Smart Phone Compatible Bluetooth Enabled Detachable Hands-Free Calling
JVC Touch Screen
JVC
Touch Screen:
KW-V250BT
JVC Touch Screen Rating
$229.99
Smart Phone Compatible Bluetooth Enabled Satellite Ready Camera Inputs: 1 Hands-Free Calling
Touch Screen
Kenwood Touch Screen
Kenwood
Touch Screen:
DDX376BT
Kenwood Touch Screen Rating
$229.99
Smart Phone Compatible Bluetooth Enabled Camera Inputs: 1 Hands-Free Calling
Touch Screen
Pioneer AVH-1550NEX
Pioneer
Apple Car Play:
AVH-1550NEX
Pioneer Apple Car Play Rating
$449.99
Smart Phone Compatible Bluetooth Enabled Satellite Ready Camera Inputs: 2 Steering Wheel Control
Hands-Free Calling
Touch Screen

What Are States Doing To Prevent Distracted Driving?

As the problem of distracted driving increases, states are creating new laws nearly every day to help limit the dangers posed on our nation’s roadways. 

Although the main focus up to now has been on banning texting while driving, more and more states are beginning to require hands-free cell phone use and are starting to put laws on the books to make other distracting behaviors, like eating or watching videos, illegal while driving.

Depending on where you live, the penalties for distracted driving can range from fines, to suspension of driving privileges, to jail time. Play it safe. Leave the distractions for when you are no longer behind the wheel.

Use our independent agent matching system to find the best insurance plan in your area. You tell us what you’re looking for, and our technology will recommend the best agents for your needs. Any information you give us will only be sent to the agents you pick.

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