The laws on talking on cell phones while driving can be pretty confusing, so we here at LoveToKnow are glad to provide you with a definitive, up-to-date guide on what is and isn't legal when it comes to deriving while using cell phones. Most of these laws have been passed with voice calls in mind, but similar precautions and regulations surely also apply to text messaging while driving. Be careful out there!
Laws on Talking on Cell Phones While Driving
When trying to understand the laws on talking on cell phones while driving, you have to realize that these are not all internationally accepted. What you may be accustomed to at home may not be the same if you travel elsewhere in the world or even within your own country. Some jurisdictions allow the use of cell phones as long as you use a handsfree headset, particularly those with wireless Bluetooth technology. Others have banned the use of cell phones altogether while behind the wheel.
United States of America
There is an ongoing debate at the national level whether cell phones should be banned from use while driving. Until a federal law has been passed (which would consequently supercede any local bylaws), each state has its own set of laws, so even when you're taking a day trip to another state, you have to bear these differences in mind. Here is a state-by-state comparison of the laws surrounding cell phone use while behind the wheel of a car.
- California (as of January 1, 2008)
- Washington, D.C.
- New Jersey
- New York
- Washington (law extends to text messages)
- Arkansas (school bus drivers)
- Arizona (bus drivers)
- Florida (local regulations vary)
- Georgia (school bus drivers)
- Illinois (school bus drivers state-wide, Chicago has full ban)
- Maine (minors and learners)
- Massachusetts (bus drivers full ban, bill pending for other drivers, everyone must keep at least one hand on the wheel while holding a phone)
- Minnesota (teenagers and provisional drivers)
- New Hampshire (can be prosecuted for using cell phone when in an accident)
- New Mexico (Santa Fe only)
- Ohio (Cleveland under debate, Brooklyn has full ban)
- Pennsylvania (local laws prevail, state legislation pending)
- Tennessee (school buses)
- Virginia (minors)
- Delaware (but can be prosecuted for "inattentive driving")
- Hawaii (under debate)
- Iowa (debated)
- Louisiana (debated)
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- Texas (proposed)
- west Virginia
Fines vary from state to state. For example, you will receive a $20 ticket for your first offense in California and a $50 ticket for subsequent infractions. In Chicago, tickets are $50 per infraction, but cell phone use while driving is legal for the rest of Illinois. New Jersey has some of the highest fines in the nation with tickets as high as $250.
Based on this data, less than half the nation has some form of a ban on cell phone use while behind the wheel of a car. This may have changed from the time this article was posted, so it is best to double-check with local authorities if you are unsure.
International Laws and Regulations
Obviously, it would be impossible (or overwhelming) for us to list every country on this planet and then proceed to provide their laws regarding cell phone use. Instead, here are a few highlights to some of the larger countries where cell phone bans are currently in effect. To our knowledge, bans exist in
- Belgium (while in traffic only)
- Canada (only Newfoundland)
- China (unofficially)
- India (New Delhi)
- Ireland (up to US$380 fine)
- Mexico City
- Norway (fines of over $600 per infraction)
- Poland (fines as high as US$1,000)
- South Korea
- United Kingdom.
Safety Should Always Come First
Whether the law says you should or should not be talking on a cell phone while driving, you should always let safety take precedence. As such, we highly recommend that you either pull over when you absolutely must take an important call. If you have to stay on the road, please use a handsfree headset if at all possible or hand your cell phone over to a passenger to take the call. Studies have suggested that talking on a cell phone is just as likely to be a contributing factor to an auto accident as being under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Scary thought.