State Distracted Driving Laws

Distracted Driving Laws By State (Updated December 2023)

Highway Safety Laws by State GHSA –  Includes drunk, drugged and aggressive driving, passenger restraint, helmet laws and more –  Select from the drop down menus to view laws by state or by topic.

Distracted Driving Laws By State,  GHSA July 2017 (A complete chart of all states, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands’ cell phone and texting bans)

Hand-held Cell Phone Use: 34 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 36 states and D.C. ban all cell phone use by novice drivers, and 25 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, 49 states, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands ban text messaging for all drivers. All but 6 have primary enforcement. Of the 3 states without an all driver texting ban, 2 prohibit text messaging by novice drivers.

Graduated Driver Licensing  Laws (GDL) by State , GHSA March 2023 (A complete chart of all states, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands’ GDL laws)

Since novice and young drivers have the greatest crash rates, with motor vehicle crashes being the leading cause of death for young drivers, many states have a Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) law with interim steps before full driving privileges are granted. The programs vary from state to state. Below are a few of the highlights:

  • Cell Phones/Texting: 39 states and D.C. ban all cell phone use by novice drivers. (See GHSA’s Distracted Driving Laws page for more information.)
  • Nighttime Driving Restriction: All states except Vermont restrict nighttime driving during the intermediate stage.
  • Passenger Restriction: 47 states and D.C. restrict the number of passengers during the intermediate stage.
  • Novice Driver Decal: New Jersey is the only state with a measure requiring those younger than 21 without full-privilege licenses to display a decal on their vehicle identifying them as new drivers.

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