Laws and Penalties for Using Your Phone While Driving for Every State

States have their own laws and regulations for using your mobile phone while driving. In some states it’s totally legal, while other states will levy stiff penalties if you get caught chatting on your phone behind the wheel. Since most states don’t consider talking on your phone while driving to be a moving violation, it most likely will not increase your car insurance rates. However, it’s still a good idea to know the laws in each state to avoid getting a ticket.

Whether or not a cell phone ticket affects your insurance rates varies from state to state. In Connecticut, insurance providers are allowed to factor in any existing cell phone tickets when determining your rates. Repeat phone offenders in Illinois get a moving violation after the first offense, which may subsequently increase your rates. In New York state, the penalty is severe: five points are added to your license on the first offense.

According to Penny Gusner, consumer analyst at Insure.com, "In cases where you are assessed driver points or the offense is a moving violation, you may see a rate increase. Insurers check your driving record when writing new policies, and typically every six months upon renewal, and will factor in any driving infractions using their own point system."

In most states, mobile phone tickets are considered minor offenses along the lines of a ticket for speeding slightly or rolling a stop sign. Depending on your provider’s own system, you may get off scot free for a cell phone ticket, while others may increase your rates by as much as 20%.

"You’ll probably find that some insurers are more forgiving than others when you shop around," says Gusner. If you receive a cell phone ticket and subsequently get a steep rate increase, it might be a good reason to compare car insurance rates from new providers.

We looked at every state’s motor vehicle department, legislative records, and the Governors Highway Safety Association to compile a list of the cell phone laws and penalties across the nation.

States with handheld mobile phone ban

These states completely ban the use of mobile phones while driving:

States with mobile phone bans for novice drivers

The laws on cell phone usage for novice drivers vary greatly by state. Generally, there’s a firm age limit, or some other measure based on how long the driver has had a license. Certain states regulate hands-free mobile phone use in addition to all-out handheld bans.

Here are the age ranges with corresponding states that have restrictions on phone use:

Age 16 or 17 with intermediate license or license for less than six months:

  • Alabama

Under 18 with learner, intermediate, or provisional license:

  • Minnesota
  • Nebraska
  • West Virginia

Over 18 with learner, intermediate, or provisional license:

  • Delaware
  • Kansas
  • Maine
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Washington
  • Wisconsin
  • Oklahoma

Restricted or intermediate license:

  • Iowa

Level 1 or 2 license:

  • Michigan

First year of license, learner or intermediate license:

  • Louisiana

Learner's permit:

  • Washington, D.C.

Age 18 to 20, primary offense; under 18, secondary offense:

  • Arkansas

Under age 18:

  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii
  • Kentucky
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • New Hampshire
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oregon
  • Rhode Island
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Virginia

Under age 19:

  • Illinois

Under age 21:

  • Indiana

States with no mobile phone ban

Some states freely permit using your mobile phone while driving. These states have no restrictions on handheld device use for experienced drivers:

Mobile phone ticket penalties by state

In the 15 states where handheld mobile phone use is banned outright, the penalties for getting caught differ greatly. Depending on where you get busted, the fine could be as low as $20 and as high as $250 for a first offense. Some states don’t assess points on your driving record for cell phone use, while others add points under certain conditions. This pertains to talking on the phone only – texting while driving laws are an entirely different set of equations.

These are the penalties for getting a citation for talking on a mobile phone in a state where it is prohibited or has special restrictions:

California

All drivers are prohibited from using a handheld mobile device while operating a motor vehicle. California law allows dialing and inputting GPS navigation. Bluetooth or other earpieces are permitted for talking, however you cannot cover both ears with headphones or earbuds while driving.

Penalties
First offense: $20
Subsequent convictions: $50

Connecticut

Drivers 18 years of age and older need hands-free accessories to legally use mobile phone while driving.

Connecticut’s legislature has specified that using a handheld phone is still illegal even if your car is stopped in traffic or at a traffic sign or light. The measure also allows insurance companies to factor in distracted driving violations like cell phone tickets when setting car insurance rates.

Penalties
First violation: $150 fine Second violation: $300 fine Each subsequent violation: $500

Delaware

Drivers are banned from using a handheld phone while driving.

Penalties
First offense: $50 Each subsequent offense: $100 to $200

Washington, D.C. (District of Columbia)

Drivers are banned from using a handheld phone while driving.

First-time violators can have the fine suspended by providing proof of having acquired a hands-free accessory prior to the imposition of the fine.

Penalties
First offense: $100

Hawaii

Drivers are banned from using a handheld phone.

Penalty
Each offense: $250

Illinois

Drivers are banned from using a handheld phone. However, drivers are allowed to press a single button on their phone to begin or end a conversation.

First offenses are not considered moving violations. However, subsequent offenses are considered moving violations and will be added to your driving record.

Penalties
First offense: Maximum of $75
Second offense: $100
Third offense: $125
Fourth or subsequent offense: $150

Maryland

Handheld mobile phone use while driving is banned, but you are allowed to turn a phone on or off and to make or end a call if you’re using a Bluetooth earpiece or headphones.

Points will not be added to a first-time violator's driving record unless the violation contributed to a crash, in which case 3 points will be added.

Penalties
First offense: $40
Subsequent offenses: $100; 1 point is assessed for a second or subsequent offense.

Nevada

Use of handheld phones while driving is illegal, but while making a call, you can touch the device to "activate, deactivate or initiate a feature or function on the device" such as Bluetooth connectivity.

Penalties
First offense (in seven years): $50
Second offense: $100; 4 demerit points
Third and subsequent offenses: $250; 4 demerit points

New Hampshire

The mobile phone law allows use of hands-free phones and bans all mobile device use by motorists under 18.

It is still illegal to use a handheld device while stopped in traffic or at lights. Starting, receiving or conducting a conversation, initiating a command to access the internet, or inputting information into a GPS or navigation device is also illegal.

Penalties
First offense: $100
Second offense: $250
Subsequent offense within 24 months: $500

New Jersey

Handheld mobile phone use is banned for all drivers.

Penalties
First offense: $200 to $400
Second offense (committed within 10 years of first): $400 to $600
Third or subsequent offenses (committed within 10 years of first): $600 to $800 fine, plus possibility of 90-day driver’s license suspension. If convicted three times of a cellphone offense, three points will be assessed to the offender’s driving record.

New Mexico

While there is no statewide ban, New Mexico’s four largest cities – Albuquerque, Las Cruces, Rio Rancho and Santa Fe – have local ordinances against handheld cellphone use.

Albuquerque penalties
First offense: $100
Second offense: $200

New York

New York law bans all drivers from using handheld mobile phones. All penalties include 5 points on your driver’s license.

Penalties
First offense: $50 to $200
Second offense (committed within 18 months): $50 to $250
Third or subsequent offense (committed within 18 months): $50 to $450

Oregon

Driving while using a cellphone without a hands-free device is prohibited. In 2012 the law was revised to close a loophole that allowed drivers to use a mobile phone if conducting business. This ended drivers being able to get out of a ticket by simply saying they were on an important business call.

Penalties
Fines of up to $500

Washington

Handheld mobile phone use is banned for all drivers. Bills attempting to strengthen the law by making phone use during temporary stops illegal or imposing higher fines for repeat offenders have failed to pass.

Penalties
Fine of $124

West Virginia

Use of handheld phones is illegal for all drivers in West Virginia.

Penalties
First offense: $100
Second offense: $200
Third or subsequent offense: $300; 3 points

Utah

There is no ban on using a mobile phone while driving in Utah. However, the state does prohibit "manipulation," including dialing, entering data, accessing the Internet, and viewing or recording video.

Penalties
Class C misdemeanor: fine up to $100
Class B misdemeanor: fine of up to $10,000 if you caused bodily injury due to the use of your mobile phone, or had a prior conviction for cell phone use in the last three years.

Vermont

Driving while using a handheld mobile is prohibited, even when your car is temporarily stopped in traffic or at a light.

Penalties
First offense: $100 to $200
Second or subsequent offense (within 2-year period): $250 to $500
Points are only assigned if violation occurs in a work zone: 2 points for the first violation, and 5 points for the second or any subsequent violations.

This article is adapted with approval from carinsurance.com: http://www.carinsurance.com/Articles/cellphone-laws-and-penalties-by-state.aspx


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