Distracted Driving

This chart outlines state distracted driving laws. Some localities have additional regulations. Enforcement type is also noted.

  • Hand-held Cell Phone Use: 16 states, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands prohibit all drivers from using hand-held cell phones while driving. All are primary enforcement laws—an officer may cite a driver for using a hand-held cell phone without any other traffic offense taking place.
  • All Cell Phone Use: No state bans all cell phone use for all drivers, but 38 states and D.C. ban all cell phone use by novice drivers, and 20 states and D.C. prohibit it for school bus drivers.
  • Text Messaging: Washington was the first state to pass a texting ban in 2007. Currently, 47 states, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands ban text messaging for all drivers. All but 4 have primary enforcement. Of the 3 states without an all driver texting ban, 2 prohibit text messaging by novice drivers.

Crash Data Collection: All states except 2 include at least one category for distraction on police crash report forms, although the specific data collected varies. The Model Minimum Uniform Crash Criteria (MMUCC) guideline provides best practices on distraction data collection.

Distracted Driving Law Chart
Law Chart

Preemption Laws: Some states have preemption laws that prohibit local jurisdictions from enacting their own distracted driving bans. States with such laws include – but may not be limited to – Florida, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, Oregon and South Carolina.

A PDF chart of state distracted driving laws is available for download here.

NOTE: GHSA does not compile any additional data on distracted driving laws other than what is presented here. For more information, consult the appropriate State Highway Safety Office.

Sources: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and State Highway Safety Offices.

Short Term Description
16 states, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands prohibit all drivers from using hand-held cell phones while driving. No state bans all cell phone use for all drivers, but 38 states and D.C. ban all cell phone use by novice drivers, and 20 states and D.C. prohibit it for school bus drivers. Currently, 47 states, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands ban text messaging for all drivers.

Distracted & Dangerous: Helping States Keep Teens Focused on the Road

This report, made possible with funding from State Farm®, looks at nearly two dozen state policy, enforcement and education initiatives to help keep teen drivers' focus off their smartphones and on the road.

The report was researched and written by nationally recognized teen safe driving expert, Pam Fischer, Principal of Pam Fischer Consulting. GHSA worked with a panel of teen driver experts to identify the featured programs, which were submitted through a survey of State Highway Safety Offices.

It Can Wait for 28 Challenge

Nevada Office of Traffic Safety

The Nevada Highway Patrol (NHP), Office of Traffic Safety (OTS), Zero Fatalities and the Las Vegas Justice Court (LVJC) developed the “It Can Wait for 28 Challenge” program to promote better driving habits concerning distracted driving. The program is designed to divert violators of Nevada’s “hands free” law into an educational program and ultimately gain voluntary compliance. Each agency has a role to play in the success of this program.

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