Distracted driving is a significant public health and safety issue, particularly as the prevalence of new communication technologies increases the potential for driving distracted.
Although lawmakers at the state, federal and local levels are examining a wide variety of issues related to driver distraction, the most common concern is the potential distraction caused by cell phones and other technology in the car. More than 220 million people in the United States subscribe to wireless services, and it is estimated that as many as 80% of those subscribers use their phones while driving.
States primarily use hand-held and texting bans to combat distracted driving. Hand-held bans are laws that allow the use of mobile devices while driving only in hands-free mode—usually through voice communication or by activating with a single tap or swipe. A growing number of states also include a prohibition to access, view or read non-navigation related content. Texting bans prohibit drivers from typing or sending text messages while driving but allow talking on a hand-held mobile device. Many of these bans provide for various exemptions, including for emergencies, law enforcement and first responders.
NCSL's Power BI Distracted Driving charts provide a detailed overview of current laws in all 50 states and the District of Columbia:
- Hand-held cellphone use ban: 24 states, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands prohibit all drivers from using hand-held cellphones while driving.
- All cellphone ban: No state bans all cellphone use for all drivers, but 36 states and D.C. ban all cellphone use by novice or teen drivers, and 18 states and D.C. prohibit any cellphone use for school bus drivers.
- Text messaging ban: 48 states, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands ban text messaging for all drivers.
- Missouri prohibits text messaging by drivers 21 years old or younger.
- Other states prohibit hand-held cellphone or all cellphone use by all or certain drivers in certain zones.
Click on the graphic below to see interactive charts on state cellphone use and texting while driving laws. You can search by state and ban type (main categories and sub-categories).