Can You Get a Citation for Texting at a Stoplight in Your State?

Are all state laws the same with texting while driving? What about stopped at a stop light?
Christine Lacagnina Written by Christine Lacagnina
Christine Lacagnina
Written by Christine Lacagnina

Christine Lacagnina has written thousands of insurance-based articles for by authoring consumable, understandable content.

paul martin Reviewed by Paul Martin
paul martin
Reviewed by Paul Martin

Paul Martin is the Director of Education and Development for Myron Steves, one of the largest, most respected insurance wholesalers in the southern U.S.

Woman is texting in a traffic jam. Can you get a citation for texting at a stop light in your state.

One of the greatest threats to drivers on the road is other distracted drivers. Since cell phones have started following people every time they leave the house, texting while driving has become one of the biggest dangers on the road. But can you actually get a citation for texting at a stop light in your state?

It's just as important to be familiar with the laws in your state as it is to practice safe driving habits. Here's a closer look at state laws regarding texting and driving and while stopped, and how they vary from place to place.

Are All State Laws the Same When It Comes to Texting while Driving?

No, not all states have the same laws regarding texting while driving. Though the vast majority, 48 states total, completely ban texting while driving. 

Of these, 44 states have primary enforcement and four states have secondary enforcement of these laws. Be sure to read up on your state's legislature regarding cell phone use while behind the wheel.

What about Texting while Stopped at a Stop Light?

Again, these laws vary by state. Certain states ban texting and all other cell phone use while behind the wheel, including while stopped at a stop light. But other states, such as Texas and Florida, have exemptions that allow drivers to text at stop lights. 

Some states are a little more complicated. New York, for example, lets drivers of private passenger cars text at stop lights, but not commercial vehicle drivers. That's why it's crucial to check your specific state's laws regarding texting and driving in depth.

How Common Is Texting while Driving?

Texting while driving is still a huge concern for drivers in the US today. Here's a look at how texting on cell phones stacks up against other distracted driving behavior.

Share of US respondents using their smartphone while driving, by activity

US Smartphone Activity While Driving.

Drivers reported to have been using their smartphones while behind the wheel were found to be texting most commonly by far. About 61% of smartphone use while driving was for texting. 

Email was almost less than half as frequent as texting, at 33%. Surfing the internet and Facebook fell even further behind, at 28% and 27%, respectively.


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Which States Don't Ban Texting while Driving?

Though most states enforce strict bans of texting while driving, this isn't true nationwide. Here's a breakdown of some states with more limited restrictions, or none at all.

States with limited or no texting while driving bans

State: Limited or No Texting While Driving Bans:
Arizona: No state laws that restrict drivers from texting while driving.
Florida: Limited bans on texting while behind the wheel. Drivers can only be punished if they get legally pulled over for another violation while the behavior is occurring.
Mississippi: Prevents minors and drivers with learner's permits only from texting while driving.
Missouri: Prevents only novice drivers, age 21 or younger, from texting while driving.
Montana: No state laws that restrict drivers from texting while driving.
New Mexico: Limited ordinances in place for cell phone use while driving, but no state ban. Novice drivers and those who carry learner's permits only are banned from texting while driving.
Oklahoma: Prevents drivers with learner's permits only from texting while driving.
Texas: Only drivers in school zones are banned from texting while driving.
West Virginia: Prevents drivers age 18 and younger only from texting while driving.

What Are the Penalties for Texting while Driving in My State?

The penalties for distracted driving behaviors also vary by state. First violation offenses range in severity depending on where you are when you get pulled over. 

Distracted driving fines by state

Minimum fine for first violation offenses

Distracted driving fines by state.

Alaska has the highest penalty for first-time offenders of distracted driving laws, enforcing $500 fines for the first violation. Oregon and Louisiana have the next-highest penalties, $260 and $250, respectively. Other states have much smaller penalties, such as California, at $20 for the first violation, Wisconsin with a $10 fine, and Montana with no fine at all.

How Can Car Insurance Protect Me from Distracted Drivers?

Though having car insurance can't prevent you from getting a citation from texting while driving, it can protect you in the event you get hit by a distracted driver. It can also protect you if you're the distracted driver who causes an accident. Car insurance comes with many important protections, like the following.

  • Collision coverage: Reimburses you for damage to your vehicle in the event of a collision with another vehicle or object, which can save you if you get struck by a driver who was texting.
  • Liability coverage: Covers you in the event of a lawsuit filed against you for claims of bodily injury or personal property damage caused by your vehicle.

While the collision coverage section of standard car insurance protects you if you get hit by a distracted driver, the liability coverage section can protect those distracted drivers if you press charges against them. An independent insurance agent can help you get set up with all the car insurance you need to be safe.

Here’s How an Independent Insurance Agent Could Help

When it comes to protecting drivers against accidents with distracted drivers and all other incidents, no one’s better equipped to help than an independent insurance agent. Independent insurance agents search through multiple carriers to find providers who specialize in car insurance, deliver quotes from a number of different sources and help you walk through them all to find the best blend of coverage and cost.

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