What Are Cell Phone Laws?

Texting and social media have become popular ways to communicate. Unlike a conversation with someone sitting next to you, though, they require your hands and eyes. That’s why texting behind the wheel is generally illegal.

Laws on texting while driving prohibit using electronic devices to write, send, or read messages. These messages can include emails and social media posts. Many laws also prohibit activities like watching videos and gaming via handheld devices while driving.

Distracted drivers risk motor vehicle accidents and expensive tickets. Like other traffic laws, rules on texting while driving come from state and local governments. The exception is federal-level cellphone restrictions that only apply to federal employees.

Danger arises when drivers take their eyes off the road to read, scroll, or send a text message. Handheld phone laws have rapidly grown as mobile phones and especially smartphones have grown more integrated into daily life.

Many laws allow some form of hands-free device use, but the types of prohibited actions can vary greatly. Almost all states have passed laws explicitly banning texting while driving. Other laws might cover the use of handheld devices more broadly.

Some text message bans specifically apply to public transit and school bus drivers. Distinct cellphone laws may also apply to school zones or work zones.

Some states have unique novice driver laws for new or teen drivers. These laws usually impose stricter limits than the texting restrictions for experienced drivers.

The exact definition of a novice driver depends on the state. Most states ban phone use for drivers under 18 years old. Adult drivers might fall under novice driver laws if they have a learner’s permit, provisional license, or intermediate license.

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