Connecticut Distracted Driving

A Guide to Connecticut's Distracted Driving Laws

(We’re talking about more than just not texting.)

Distracted Driving

Sorry to start on such a negative note, but Connecticut saw 109,498 car accidents in 2018. And most of these were simple distracted driving mistakes that were completely preventable.

That’s why arguably THE most important thing you can do behind the wheel is keep your hands at 10 and 2 and your eyes on the road. Always.

What Is Distracted Driving?

The Connecticut Department of Transportation defines distracted driving as “any non-driving activity a person engages in while operating a motor vehicle." There are three types of distractions:

  • Manual: anything that causes you to take your hands off the wheel, like eating, smoking, or reaching for an object
  • Visual: anything that causes you to take your eyes off the road, like looking at a GPS, checking your hair in the review mirror,  or looking at kids in the backseat
  • Cognitive: anything that causes you to take your mind off the task of driving, like having a conversation with a passenger, going over your shopping list in your head, or daydreaming

Most distracted driving actions, though hazardous, are still totally legal. In Connecticut, lawmakers are primarily focused on reducing the number of distracted driving accidents caused by cell phones, leaving a large number of other distractions unchecked.

Distracted Driving Statistics in Connecticut

You don’t have to follow the local news every night to know that distracted driving is a problem, but here are a few statistics that might help you understand just how serious it is in Connecticut:

  • The Connecticut city with the most distracted driving crashes is New Haven, followed by Hartford, Bridgeport, and Waterbury.
  • Most distracted driving accidents in Connecticut occur between the hours of 3 pm and 5 pm.
  • The CT roads with the most distracted driving accidents are Route 1 South (along the southern coast), Route 9 North (in Middletown), and Route 2 West (between Norwich and North Stonington).
  • In a poll of 500 adult drivers in CT, 36% said they had either been in a crash or had a near-miss due to distracted driving.

Does Connecticut Have Laws against Distracted Driving?

Yes.

Connecticut laws currently prohibit:

  • All drivers from reading, sending, or receiving text messages while behind the wheel
  • All drivers from playing video games or using DVD players while behind the wheel
  • Drivers over age 18 from using handheld devices. Hands-free is okay.
  • Drivers under the age of 18 from using  any cell phone or other mobile electronic device, even if hands-free
  • School bus drivers from using any type of cell phone, even hands-free, while driving a bus with passengers on board

Connecticut compared to the rest of the US on texting and driving restrictions

States that have laws against texting and driving

Every state in the US has a law that prohibits some sort of cell phone usage except Montana and Arizona. However, in 2021, newly enacted cell phone restriction laws will go into effect in Arizona.

Are There Any Exceptions to the Distracted Driving Laws in Connecticut?

Yes.

The only exception to Connecticut’s distracted driving law is when it comes to an emergency. Regardless of the driver's age, in an emergency, a cell phone may be used by hand to call 911.

Connecticut Distracted Driving Laws at a Glance


            Yes            No
Is texting while driving legal?                 X               
Can you send/receive texts at a red light?                                               X
Is handheld device use permitted?                              X
Any special restriction for young drivers?                X                
Is headphone/headset use permitted?                X               

Is It Legal to Eat a Cheeseburger While Driving in Connecticut?

Yes. But that doesn't mean you should.

Distracted driving comes in many forms. From texting and watching videos to less obvious distractions like searching for your sunglasses or munching on French fries, anything that takes your attention away from the task of driving presents a hazard and should be avoided.

So what happens if a police officer in Connecticut sees you eating a cheeseburger while driving down the highway? In most cases, nothing. There's no law that says you can't eat while driving in this state.

But eating a cheeseburger could cause you to drive erratically or lose focus and commit a moving violation, like running a stop sign, and you could be pulled over for that. If that happens, you may get written up for careless driving AND the moving violation you committed.

Unless you're really in a hurry, you’re better off eating your Whopper indoors or while sitting in the parking lot.

What's the Difference between Primary and Secondary Enforcement of Distracted Driving Laws?

Primary enforcement of distracted driving laws means the police can pull you over if they see you violating state distracted driving laws.  

Secondary enforcement of distracted driving laws means the  police can cite you for violating distracted driving laws only if you break another law while doing so.

Connecticut uses primary enforcement.

This means that even if you are obeying all traffic laws and feel like you're in total control of your vehicle while doing so, if a police officer sees you on your phone while driving, you can be pulled over and given a citation.

What's the Fine for Distracted Driving in Connecticut?

The fine for a distracted driving citation increases according to the number of times a driver has received a citation and the age of the driver.

For drivers 18 and older:

  • First offense: $150 fine
  • Second offense: $300 fine
  • Third and subsequent offenses: $500 fine

For drivers under 18:

  • First offense: 30-day license suspension, $175 license restoration fee and court costs
  • Second offense: 90-day license suspension, $175 license restoration fee and court costs
  • Third offense: 6-month license suspension, $175 license restoration fee and court costs

Also, violations of Connecticut’s distracted driving laws are considered moving violations and add points to your driver’s license.

The fine for distracted driving in Connecticut compared to surrounding states

The fine for distracted driving in Connecticut compared to surrounding states

In addition to the fines assigned for distracted driving infractions, you'll be expected to pay court costs and legal fees, too. And there is another price to pay, which brings us to our next subject: car insurance.

Does a Distracted Driving Citation in Connecticut Increase Insurance Rates?

Yes. 

Distracted driving is a moving violation and is therefore reported to your insurance company. The amount your rates will  increase depends on your insurer and your overall driving history, but the average increase is around $120 per year.

And if you have a safe driver discount, you can kiss that goodbye, making your rate hike even more significant.

That phone call or text message simply isn’t worth it. If you need to chat right away, pull to the side of the road and park your car first.

What If I Drive into a State with Different Laws?

Distracted driving laws vary by state, so when you cross that state line you're required to follow their laws. Claiming ignorance of the law will not get you out of a citation, so be sure to check on the current laws for any states you may be traveling through before you take your next road trip!

New York doesn't place restrictions on younger drivers, and three states still permit adult drivers to text while driving. Does this mean if you're in a state that allows handheld cell phone use or texting while driving that you can do that legally? Well, yes but...

Just because something is legal doesn’t mean it is wise. If your car is already set up for hands-free phone calls, and you're already used to forgoing text messages until you reach your destination, why would you want to take the risk of having an accident just because these dangerous behaviors are permitted?

What's Connecticut Doing To Prevent Distracted Driving?

Since 2015, the Connecticut Department of Transportation has participated in the National Highway and Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA)’s  “U DRIVE. U TEXT. U PAY.” initiative. This program runs for two weeks in August every year. During this campaign, police officers in the state crack down on motorists who are violating the state’s distracted driving laws.

Through high visibility enforcement and the spreading of information about the hazards of distracted driving, state officials hope to curb this dangerous practice.

So What Can You Do?

Quite simply, just put the phone away — even if that means in the glove compartment. The fines themselves are definitely not worth it, let alone the more serious consequences to you and others on the road. Let’s all just get where we’re going safely and save the texting and the Candy Crush until you get home.

Sources © 2020, Consumer Agent Portal, LLC. All rights reserved.

https://portal.ct.gov/DOT/Programs/Distracted-Driving-Prevention

https://portal.ct.gov/-/media/DOT/documents/dTransportation_Safety/Distracted_Driving_Prevention/DistractedDrivingFactSheetpdf.pdf?la=en

https://www.courant.com/news/connecticut/hc-news-connecticut-distracted-driving-20180925-story.html

https://portal.ct.gov/-/media/TeenDriving/teendriverbrochpdf.pdf

© 2020, Consumer Agent Portal, LLC. All rights reserved.

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