Mobile Phones and Driving Safety State Laws

The use of mobile phones has increased and continues to increase in popularity. Unfortunately dangerous and unintended consequences come along with this convenience. Mobile communication has been linked to driving distracted which has resulted in serious injury as well as death. Because of the increased dangers and risks involved with using mobile phones while driving, government agencies, safety organizations, and others are coming together to educate and inform everyone about the risks involved with using mobile devices while driving as well as offer tips and advice on how the public can also reduce risks to protect themselves and other drivers.

Mobile Phone Distraction – Related Accidents

Distractions while driving include: smoking, drinking, eating, adjusting the heat or air, reaching for objects, adjusting the radio, other occupants in the vehicle, and using cell phones. According to a report released by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were 5,474 deaths caused by distracted drivers in 2009. A U.S. crash data study done in 2003 estimated that 20 to 50 percent of crashes reported by police are a result of driver inattention. The sub-category, driver distraction, is estimated to contribute between 8 and 13 percent of all accidents. Using cell phones ranges from 1.5 to 5 percent of contributing to these accidents. Unknown Driver Attention Status, according to the American Automobile Association, is responsible for 41.5 percent of vehicle accidents and unknown distractions for 8.6 percent. Of course, these statistics are estimated and could be inadequate due to other unknown factors, but regardless, distracted driving can have serious consequences.

Comparisons with Passenger Conversation

There are mixed reviews on the dangers of talking to a passenger in a vehicle compared to the dangers of talking on a mobile phone. It is conceived that passengers can regulate conversation based on the level of danger which makes risk negligible. According to a study conducted by the University of South Carolina, speaking and planning on speaking put a lot of demands on listening resources in the brain. Attention levels were measured and it was shown that participants in the study were more distracted when speaking and preparing to speak four more times than just listening. The University of Nottingham also did a study which found utterances were higher for mobile communication when compared to non-blindfolded and blindfolded passengers in various driving instances. The University of Utah study, conducted in 2004, determined that drivers perform more efficiently when having a conversation with a vehicle passenger, as compared to having a conversation on a cell phone, because driving and traffic become a part of the actual conversation. Those communicating via a mobile phone were four times more likely to miss an exit than those talking with a passenger.

Texting While Driving

Texting consists of creating, sending, and reading anything by using a mobile phone while driving a vehicle. It is dangerous and has been the cause of many bad accidents. When a driver is paying attention to their mobile phone rather than the road in front of them it can lead to deadly consequences. In certain places, using a mobile phone while driving has been restricted and even outlawed. A survey was conducted in 2006 by Liberty Mutual Insurance Group and 37 percent of students thought texting while driving was extremely or very distracting. According to another study by the American Automobile Association, 46 percent of teenagers admitted that they have been, or have been in a vehicle with someone who was distracted while driving due to texting. Texting while driving increases accident risks because the drivers eyes are off the road for about 4.6 seconds. This is similar to driving blind at 55 miles per hour about the length of a football field.

State Laws

The District of Columbia, Washington, Utah, Oregon, New York, New jersey, Nevada, Maryland, Delaware, Connecticut, and California have all banned talking on cell phones while driving. The use of cell phones by beginning drivers is restricted in the District of Columbia and 30 states in the U.S. 19 states have restricted cell phone use from school bus drivers. 35 states have banned text messaging for all drivers and beginning drivers are not allowed to text while driving in West Virginia, Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Missouri, Mississippi, and Alabama. The following information describes which states have laws, in regards to cell phone use while driving. Those with secondary enforcement laws simply means that there must be some other reason to pull the driver over rather than being able to stop a driver strictly for using a cell phone.

State

Enforcement

Ban on Texting

Ban for Bus drivers

Cell Phone Ban for Young Drivers

Hand-Held Device ban

Alabama

Primary

Young Drivers

No

Ages 16/17 Driving Less Than Six Months

No

Alaska

Primary

Yes

No

No

No

Arizona

Primary

No

Yes

No

No

Arkansas

Both Depending on Driver

Yes

Yes

Over 18/Less Than 21 – School Zones/Work Zones on Highway

Younger Than 18

California

Both Depending on Driver

Yes

Yes

Younger Than 18

Everyone

Colorado

Primary

Yes

No

Younger Than 18

No

Connecticut

Primary

Yes

Yes

Younger Than 18

Everyone

Delaware

Primary

Yes

Yes

Beginning/Intermediate Drivers

Everyone

District of Columbia

Primary

Yes

Yes

Permit Holders

Everyone

Florida

N/A

No

No

No

No

Georgia

Primary

Yes

Yes

Younger Than 18

No

Hawaii

N/A

No

No

No

No

Idaho

N/A

No

No

No

No

Illinois

Primary

Yes

Yes

Younger Than 19

School and Construction Zones

Indiana

Primary

Yes

No

Younger Than 18

No

Iowa

Both Depending on Driver

Yes

No

Beginning/Intermediate Drivers

No

Kansas

Primary

Yes

No

Beginning/Intermediate Drivers

No

Kentucky

Primary

Yes

Yes

Younger Than 18

No

Louisiana

Primary

Yes

Yes

Novice Drivers

Novice Drivers

Maine

Primary

Yes

No

Beginning/Intermediate Drivers

No

Maryland

Both; Primary for Texting

Yes

Yes

Younger Than 18

Yes

Massachusetts

Primary

Yes

Yes

Younger Than 18

No

Michigan

Primary

Yes

No

No

No

Minnesota

Primary

Yes

Yes

Beginning/Intermediate Drivers

No

Mississippi

Primary

Beginner/Intermediate Drivers and Bus Drivers

Yes

No

No

Missouri

Primary

21 and Younger

No

No

No

Montana

N/A

No

No

No

No

Nebraska

Secondary

Yes

No

Beginning/Intermediate Drivers

No

Nevada

Primary

Yes

No

No

Yes

New Hampshire

Primary

Yes

No

No

No

New Jersey

Primary

Yes

Yes

Beginning/Intermediate Drivers

Yes

New Mexico

Primary

Beginner/Intermediate Drivers

No

Beginning/Intermediate Drivers

No

New York

Primary

Yes

No

No

Yes

North Carolina

Primary

Yes

Yes

Younger Than 18

No

North Dakota

Primary

Yes

No

Younger Than 18

No

Ohio

N/A

No

No

No

No

Oklahoma

Primary

Beginning/Intermediate Drivers and School and Transit Bus Drivers

No

No

Beginning/Intermediate Drivers

Oregon

Primary

Yes

No

Younger Than 18

Yes

Pennsylvania

Primary

Yes

No

No

No

Rhode Island

Primary

Yes

Yes

Younger Than 18

No

South Carolina

N/A

No

No

No

No

South Dakota

N/A

No

No

No

No

Tennessee

Primary

Yes

Yes

Permit Holders

No

Texas

Primary

Drivers Under 18/ In School Zones/ Bus Drivers

Yes

Younger Than 18

School zones

Utah

Both Depending

Yes

No

No

Yes

Vermont

Primary

Yes

No

Younger Than 18

No

Virginia

Both Depending

Yes

Yes

Younger Than 18

No

Washington

Primary

Yes

No

Beginning/Intermediate Drivers

Yes

West Virginia

Primary

Drivers Under 18

No

Younger Than 18

No

Wisconsin

Primary

Yes

No

No

No

Wyoming

Primary

Yes

No

No

No

Additional Resources

The following links will provide more information as well as tips and advice as to how you can educate others about the dangers of distracted driving.