Driver distraction, to include cell phone use, is a major cause of wrecks. This is a huge issue in the trucking industry as truck drivers are required to frequently update their company and are on the road weeks at a time, leaving the cell phone their only means of communication with vendors, friends, and family.
Proving that a truck or bus driver was actually texting while driving, or on a cell phone, is difficult and generally requires a lawyer. Records must be subpoened from the service provider. These records are often destroyed after a few months, thus having a lawyer fighting for you in a serious truck or bus accident case is critical.
Paralegal superstar Janabeth Fleming Taylor recently sent me the link to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s list of cell phone laws in the US. The list can be seen here and is pasted below for your convenience.
A jurisdiction-wide ban on driving while talking on a hand-held cellphone is in place in 9 states (California, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Utah, and Washington) and the District of Columbia. Utah has named the offense careless driving. Under the Utah law, no one commits an offense when speaking on a cellphone unless they are also committing some other moving violation other than speeding.
Local jurisdictions may or may not need specific state statutory authority to ban cellphones. Localities that have enacted restrictions on cellphone use include: Oahu, HI; Chicago, IL; Brookline, MA; Detroit, MI; Santa Fe, NM; Brooklyn, North Olmstead, and Walton Hills, OH; Conshohocken, Lebanon, and West Conshohocken, PA; Waupaca County, WI; and Cheyenne, WY.
The use of all cellphones while driving a school bus is prohibited in 19 states and the District of Columbia.
The use of all cellphones by novice drivers is restricted in 28 states and the District of Columbia.
Text messaging is banned for all drivers in 30 states and the District of Columbia. In addition, novice drivers are banned from texting in 8 states (Alabama, Indiana, Maine, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, and West Virginia) and school bus drivers are banned from text messaging in 2 states (Oklahoma, and Texas).
The table below shows the states that have cellphone laws, whether they specifically ban text messaging, and whether they are enforced as primary or secondary laws. Under secondary laws, an officer must have some other reason to stop a vehicle before citing a driver for using a cellphone. Laws without this restriction are called primary.
|Laws restricting cellphone use and texting|
|State||Hand-held ban||Young drivers all cellphone ban||Bus drivers all cellphone ban||Texting ban||Enforcement|
|Alabama||no||drivers age 16 and 17-year-old drivers who have held an intermediate license for fewer than 6 months||no||drivers age 16 and 17-year-old drivers who have held an intermediate license for fewer than 6 months||primary|
|Arizona||no||no||school bus drivers||no||primary|
|Arkansas||drivers 18 or older but younger than 21||drivers younger than 18||school bus drivers||all drivers||primary: texting by all drivers and cellphone use by school bus drivers; secondary: cellphone use by young drivers1|
|California||all drivers||drivers younger than 18||school and transit bus drivers||all drivers||primary; secondary for hands-free cellphone use by young drivers1|
|Colorado||no||drivers younger than 18||no||all drivers||primary|
|Connecticut||all drivers||drivers younger than 18||school bus drivers||all drivers||primary|
|Delaware||all drivers (effective 01/02/11)||learner’s permit and intermediate license holders||school bus drivers||all drivers (effective 01/02/11)||primary|
|District of Columbia||all drivers||learner’s permit holders||school bus drivers||all drivers||primary|
|Georgia||no||drivers younger than 18||school bus drivers||all drivers||primary|
|Illinois||drivers in construction and school speed zones||drivers younger than 19 and learner’s permit holders younger than 19||school bus drivers||all drivers||primary|
|Indiana||no||drivers younger than 18||no||drivers younger than 18||primary|
|Iowa||no||learner’s permit and intermediate license holders||no||all drivers||primary for learner’s permit and intermediate license holders; secondary for texting|
|Kansas||no||learner’s permit and intermediate license holders||no||all drivers||primary|
|Kentucky||no||drivers younger than 18||school bus drivers||all drivers||primary|
|Louisiana||with respect to novice drivers, see footnote2||with respect to novice drivers, see footnote2||school bus drivers||all drivers||primary2 (effective 08/15/10)|
|Maine||no||learner’s permit and intermediate license holders||no||learner’s permit and intermediate license holders||primary|
|Maryland||all drivers (effective 10/01/10)||learner’s permit and provisional license holders younger than 18 (effective 10/01/10)||school bus drivers (hand-held ban) (effective 10/01/10)||all drivers||secondary; primary for texting|
|Massachusetts||no||drivers younger than 18 (effective 09/30/10)||school bus drivers (effective since 4/12/01) and passenger bus drivers (effective 09/30/10)||all drivers (effective 09/30/10)||primary|
|Minnesota||no||learner’s permit holders and provisional license holders during the first 12 months after licensing||school bus drivers||all drivers||primary|
|Mississippi||no||no||no||learner’s permit and intermediate license holders||primary|
|Missouri||no||no||no||drivers 21 and younger||primary|
|Nebraska||no||learner’s permit and intermediate license holders younger than 18||no||all drivers||secondary|
|New Hampshire||no||no||no||all drivers||primary|
|New Jersey||all drivers||learner’s permit and intermediate license holders||school bus drivers||all drivers||primary|
|New Mexico||no||no||no||no||not applicable|
|New York||all drivers||no||no||all drivers||primary; secondary for text messaging|
|North Carolina||no||drivers younger than 18||school bus drivers||all drivers||primary|
|North Dakota||no||no||no||no||not applicable|
|Oklahoma||learner’s permit and intermediate license holders (effective 11/01/10)||no3||school bus drivers and public transit drivers (effective 11/01/10)||learner’s permit holders, intermediate license holders, school bus drivers and public transit drivers (effective 11/01/10)||primary (effective 11/01/10)|
|Oregon||all drivers||drivers younger than 18||no||all drivers||primary|
|Rhode Island||no||drivers younger than 18||school bus drivers||all drivers||primary|
|South Carolina||no||no||no||no||not applicable|
|South Dakota||no||no||no||no||not applicable|
|Tennessee||no||learner’s permit and intermediate license holders||school bus drivers||all drivers||primary|
|Texas||drivers in school crossing zones||intermediate license holders for the first twelve months||bus drivers when a passenger 17 and younger is present||bus drivers when a passenger 17 and younger is present; intermediate license holders for first twelve months; drivers in school crossing zones||primary|
|Utah||all drivers||no||no||all drivers||primary for texting; secondary for talking on a hand-held cellphone4|
|Vermont||no||drivers younger than 18||no||all drivers||primary|
|Virginia||no||drivers younger than 18||school bus drivers||all drivers||secondary; primary for school bus drivers|
|Washington||all drivers||learner’s permit and intermediate license holders||no||all drivers||primary|
|West Virginia||no||drivers younger than 18 who hold either a learner’s permit or an intermediate license||no||drivers younger than 18 who hold either a learner’s permit or an intermediate license||primary|
|Wisconsin||no||no||no||all drivers (effective 12/01/10)||primary (effective 12/01/10)|
1The laws in Arkansas and California prohibit police from stopping a vehicle to determine if a driver is in compliance with the law. Clearly, that language prohibits the use of checkpoints to enforce the law, but it has been interpreted as the functional equivalent of secondary provisions that typically state the officer may not stop someone suspected of a violation unless there is other, independent, cause for a stop.
2In Louisiana, all learner’s permit holders, irrespective of age, and all intermediate license holders are prohibited from driving while using a hand-held cellphone and all drivers younger than 18 are prohibited from using any cellphone. Effective April 1, 2010 all drivers, irrespective of age, issued a first driver’s license will be prohibited from using a cellphone for one year. The cellphone ban is secondary for novice drivers age 18 and older.