Cell phones are no longer a rare luxury; almost everyone has one and uses it often. Over the past decade, the number of Americans using mobile phones has skyrocketed; unfortunately, there have also been many tragic traffic accidents caused by distracted drivers who were talking, texting or otherwise preoccupied with their phone while behind the wheel. These accidents have resulted in many new laws regarding driving and cell phone use; these laws vary from state to state, so it’s important for all drivers to know what the local laws are.
No states currently ban all cell phone use while driving, although many do place significant limits on which drivers are eligible to drive and talk (or text).
Mobile Phone and Driving Legal Breakdown
- Ten states (plus Washington D.C.) have banned the use of handheld cell phones while driving.
- Over 30 states forbid any type of cell phone use by novice drivers.
- In many states it’s illegal for school bus drivers to use their phones while passengers are on board.
- Train conductors, cab drivers and other transit personnel are often banned from talking or texting on the job.
- Several states who don’t ban novices and bus drivers from talking on the phone behind the wheel DO prohibit them from texting under the same circumstances.
Don’t Hold Your Phone
Many laws don’t prohibit talking on the phone while driving, as long as the phone isn’t held in the driver’s hand. Consequently, many drivers have adapted by using bluetooth earpieces, which allow them to speak hands-free. This strategy is very popular; many billboards and store displays tout the benefits of buying bluetooth headphones for your iPhone4. Bluetooth devices rest in the ear and usually have a plastic or rubberized loop that fastens the headset around the user’s ear. A small button allows users to pick up calls, have conversations and hang up at the end, all without rummaging around for their cell phone. Bluetooth headphones also come in handy when lugging grocery bags, changing dirty diapers and performing other potentially messy chores.
Additional, Simultaneous Traffic Offense Usually Required
It’s very important to understand that each state has its own cell phone laws, and that the differences between each include not only what behaviors are prohibited, but also the circumstances in which a police officer may ticket a driver for breaking these laws. For example, in several states, drivers caught using a handheld cell phone can only be cited for it if the police officer witnessed them commit another traffic offense also. This type of cell phone laws are called secondary laws. States that have primary laws regarding cell phone use by drivers allow their police officers to pull a car over and ticket the driver, even if he or she was otherwise obeying local traffic laws. Utah is a case unto itself in this area; police may only ticket a driver for a cell phone offense if the driver committed another moving violation BESIDES SPEEDING. This means that the chatty driver must run a red light, roll through a stop sign, pass on the right or otherwise misbehave before they’re in danger of getting ticketed for using their phone.