States with the strictest distracted driving laws

Westfield used data from the Governors Highway Safety Association to determine which states have the strictest distracted driving laws regarding the use of electronic devices. – bbernard // Shutterstock

Colleen Kilday

Nine people die every day in the United States due to distracted driving, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Distracted driving includes any activity that causes a driver to take their eyes off the road, whether it’s eating and drinking, adjusting car controls, smoking or fiddling with the radio – but using a mobile phone is by far the most dangerous.

Sending a single text takes a driver’s eyes off the road for an average of five seconds National Road Safety Authority. NHTSA further states that in 2021 8% of all fatal traffic accidents and 14% of traffic accidents with injuries were caused by distracted driving. However, it is important to note that since the majority of recorded distracted driving crashes are self-reported, these statistics are likely to be much higher.

The economic consequences of inattentive driving are also significant. In a measure that includes assessments of quality of life, health care costs, legal costs, emergency services and property damage, NHTSA found that vehicle crashes caused by distracted driving resulted in a total economic loss of $395 billion in the United States in 2019.

The consequences of distracted driving have long been documented, but countermeasures have produced only a slight decrease in fatal crashes. In 2017, 14% of all distracted driving fatalities were caused by cell phone use. In 2021, the most recent year for which this data was assimilated, it was 12%.

A 2019 study by Center for Automotive Safety Research at the University of Adelaide found that such a slow pace of change may be due to the motivations underlying dispersed management. This includes feelings of obligation to respond quickly to electronic communications; the desire to use your time efficiently; the habitual nature of such conduct; and overestimating one’s ability to drive safely despite distractions.

NHTSA aims to raise national awareness of the dangers of distracted driving; however, related laws governing distracted driving are mandated at the state level. Interestingly, Arizona, Montana and Missouri are the only states without a texting and driving ban that applies to drivers of all ages. Meanwhile, Delaware—which has the strictest distracted driving laws—is among the 10 safest states to drive and issues the most distracted driving citations.

Using data from Governors Highway Safety Association, Westfield compiled a list of states with the strictest driving laws. The states were selected based on how strict the laws were on the use of handheld computers, cell phones and texting while driving.


Afternoon cityscape of Little Rock.

Eduardo Medrano // Shutterstock

Arkansas

– No manual controls: school and work zones only
– Ban on all mobile phones: school bus drivers and novice drivers (under 18)
– Texting: ban all drivers

Aerial view of Kauai.

Pierre Leclerc // Shutterstock

Hawaii

– Ban on handheld: yes
– Ban on all mobile phones: novice drivers (under 18)
– Texting: ban all drivers

Monument Circle in Indianapolis.

Sean Pavone // Shutterstock

Indiana

– Ban on handheld: yes
– Ban on all mobile phones: Novice drivers (under 21)
– Texting: ban all drivers

Canal Street in New Orleans.

You can go

Louisiana

– No manual use: learner or intermediate driver’s license (regardless of age), drivers in school zones
– Ban on all cell phones: school bus drivers and novice drivers (drivers under 18)
– Texting: ban all drivers

Portland Head Lighthouse and coastline.

Joseph Sohm // Shutterstock

Maine

– Ban on handheld: yes
– Ban on all cell phones: Novice drivers (learner or intermediate license)
– Texting: ban all drivers

Aerial view of Market Square and North Church in Portsmouth.

Wangkun Jia // Shutterstock

New Hampshire

– Ban on handheld: yes
– Ban on all mobile phones: novice drivers (under 18)
– Texting: ban all drivers

Cincinnati skyline and bridge.

photo.ua // Shutterstock

Ohio

– Ban on handheld: yes
– Ban on all mobile phones: novice drivers (under 18)
– Texting: ban all drivers

Portland cityscape from Pittock Mansion.

Josemaria Toscano // Shutterstock

Oregon

– Ban on handheld: yes
– Ban on all mobile phones: novice drivers (under 18)
– Texting: ban all drivers

Aerial view of cityscape and highways.

kintermedia // Shutterstock

Texas

– No handhelds: yes, only in school crossing zones and on public school property
– Ban on all mobile phones: school bus drivers and novice drivers (under 18)
– Texting: ban all drivers

Aerial view of scenic Route 100 in summer.

S_Hoss // Shutterstock

Vermont

– Ban on handheld: yes
– Ban on all mobile phones: novice drivers (under 18)
– Texting: ban all drivers

Elevated view of the Space Needle and downtown.

kan_khampanya // Shutterstock

Washington

– Ban on handheld: yes
– Ban on all cell phones: Novice drivers (learner or intermediate license)
– Texting: ban all drivers

Aerial view of Morgantown.

You can go

west virginia

– Ban on handheld: yes
– Ban on all mobile phones: Novice drivers (under 18 with learner or intermediate license)
– Texting: ban all drivers

Aerial view of metro and freeways in Atlanta.

Brett Barnhill // Shutterstock

Georgia

– Ban on handheld: yes
– Ban on all cell phones: school bus drivers
– Texting: ban all drivers

Aerial view of Roanoke.

You can go

Virginia

– Ban on handheld: yes
– Ban on all cell phones: school bus drivers
– Texting: ban all drivers

Urban sunset over downtown Scottsdale.

antsdrone // Shutterstock

Arizona

– Ban on handheld: yes
– Ban on all mobile phones: school bus drivers and novice drivers (under 18)
– Texting: ban all drivers

Bixby Bridge in Big Sur.

Max Ershov // Shutterstock

California

– Ban on handheld: yes
– Ban on all mobile phones: school bus drivers and novice drivers (under 18)
– Texting: ban all drivers

Soliders and Sailors Memorial Arch in Hartford.

f11photo // Shutterstock

Connecticut

– Ban on handheld: yes
– Ban on all mobile phones: school bus drivers and novice drivers (under 18)
– Texting: ban all drivers

Aerial view of Lewes.

Khairil Azhar Junos // Shutterstock

Delaware

– Ban on handheld: yes
– Ban on all cell phones: school bus drivers and novice drivers (learner or intermediate)
– Texting: ban all drivers

Pennsylvania Avenue and the US Capitol.

Orhan Cam // Shutterstock

Washington DC.

– Ban on handheld: yes
– Ban on all cell phones: school bus drivers and novice drivers (student permit)
– Texting: ban all drivers

Traffic in downtown Chicago.

f11photo // Shutterstock

Illinois

– Ban on handheld: yes
– Ban on all mobile phones: school bus drivers and novice drivers (under 19)
– Texting: ban all drivers

Aerial view of Annapolis and the Statehouse.

Real Window Creative // ​​​​​​Shutterstock

Maryland

– Ban on handheld: yes
– Ban on all mobile phones: school bus drivers and novice drivers (under 18)
– Texting: ban all drivers

Boston skyline with river.

lunamarina // Shutterstock

Massachusetts

– Ban on handheld: yes
– Ban on all mobile phones: school bus drivers and novice drivers (under 18)
– Texting: ban all drivers

Park and skyscrapers in downtown Detroit.

Gerald Bernard // Shutterstock

Michigan

– Ban on handheld: yes
– Ban on all mobile phones: school bus drivers and novice drivers (no hand-held use)
– Texting: ban all drivers

Minnesota Skyline and Interstate Highway 35W.

Mark Herreid // Shutterstock

Minnesota

– Ban on handheld: yes
– Ban on all cell phones: school bus drivers and novice drivers (student drivers under 18 or with a provisional license)
– Texting: ban all drivers

Aerial view of Jersey City.

Camera // Shutterstock

New Jersey

– Ban on handheld: yes
– Ban on all cell phones: school bus drivers and novice drivers (permit or provisional license)
– Texting: ban all drivers

Manchester Street Power Plant smokestack and Providence skyline.

Big Joe // Shutterstock

Rhode Island

– Ban on handheld: yes
– Ban on all mobile phones: school bus drivers and novice drivers (under 18)
– Texting: ban all drivers

Downtown Nashville in the fall.

Photo by Brian Wilson // Shutterstock

Tennessee

– Ban on handheld: yes
– Ban on all cell phones: school bus drivers and novice drivers (learner or intermediate)
– Texting: ban all drivers

This story originally appeared on Westfield and was produced by a
distributed in collaboration with Stacker Studio.

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