Why is Using My Cell Phone while Driving Legal in One State and Illegal in Another?

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In the United States, there is no federal law banning the use of a cell phone while driving. Most laws pertaining to traffic regulations are left to each individual state to decide. Depending on the state you drive in, there may be restrictions on only certain kinds of cell phone use, such as texting and driving or hand-held cell phone use, or bans affecting only younger drivers. In some states, cities and municipalities can set their own restrictions on cell phone use as well. In Texas, for example, more than 90 cities have adopted a cell phone ban while driving in some form.

Each state also determines how a cell phone-related violation is enforced by law enforcement. In states with primary enforcement, you can be pulled over and cited for the infraction even if you are otherwise obeying other traffic laws. In states with secondary enforcement, a police officer must witness you breaking another traffic law, such as speeding or running a red light, before stopping and ticketing you for the cell phone-related infraction.

Commercial vehicle operators are banned from using hand-held cell phones and texting while driving throughout the entire country. The United States Department of Transportation imposes this regulation and has oversight over interstate commerce. Large truck drivers risk losing their commercial driver’s license when they decide to use their cell phone while driving. Large truck accidents caused by drivers distracted by a cell phone are oftentimes severe in nature.

Cell Phone Laws in the United States

Laws prohibiting cell phone use while driving are implemented to protect drivers, other motorists, and pedestrians. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), approximately ten percent of all fatal motor vehicle accidents are caused by distracted driving.

  • Talking on a hand-held cellphone while driving is banned in 15 states and the District of Columbia.
    • Texas has a statewide ban on hand-held cellphone use while driving through a school zone.
  • Texting and driving is banned for all drivers in 47 states and the District of Columbia.
  • Thirty-eight states ban all cellphone use by novice or teen drivers

To find out about your state’s regulations, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has a chart describing each state’s laws restricting cell phone use while driving. Regardless of what the law is in your state, it’s important to understand how unsafe it is to drive distracted, either hands-free, with a cell phone to your ear, or texting.

Is All Cell Phone Use Dangerous?

No matter how you are using a cell phone while operating a vehicle — texting, hand-held, Bluetooth, or otherwise — it is a dangerous distraction that puts your life and other motorists’ lives in jeopardy. Studies have shown that the effects of distraction on a driver is similar to that of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Thomas J. Henry has handled many cases involving distracted drivers in which expert witnesses testify to the similarity of impairments associated with distracted driving and drunk driving.

In order to safely operate a vehicle, a motorist must not have any visual, manual, or cognitive distractions. Texting and driving, for example, removes your eyes from the roadways, your hands from the steering wheel, and your mind off the task of driving. This creates an incredibly dangerous situation; distracted driving-affected crashes caused more than 3,400 deaths in 2015 in the United States.

Contact an Experienced Accident Attorney

Thomas J. Henry urges everyone to operate their vehicles safely and without any sort of distraction. Protect your livelihood, the safety of your passengers, and the motorists you share the road with. If you were injured in an accident involving a distracted driver, you may be entitled to compensation. Our attorneys have experience handling distracted driving accident cases that result in catastrophic injuries. Call our law offices today for a free case review.

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