If you, or your employees use cell phones in the car, you should be beware of the many new state laws that affect how you can use a cell phone while driving.
If you do not advise your employees of your state's cell phone laws, or call or require employees to use cell phones while driving, you may be liable for legal violations if they break cell phone laws while driving for company-related business, or in a company car.
To date, no state has passed laws completely banning the use of cell phones while driving, but individual states have now passed laws governing the use of cell phones while driving. Some laws cover all drivers, while others only govern cell phone use for bus drivers and novice drivers.
How Tickets Can Be Issued for Cell Phone Driving Violations
A police officer can pull you over just for holding your cell phone while driving if s/he suspects you were using the phone illegally. There are two ways you can get a ticket for violating your state’s cell phone laws:
Primary Enforcement Laws allow an officer to write a ticket for a violation for using a cell phone while driving even if there were no other violations (like speeding) occurring at the time.
Secondary Enforcement Laws permit an officer to write you a ticket for illegal cell phone use only if there was another traffic violation occurring at the same time. For example, if you run a red light while using a cell phone, you can get a ticket for running the red light and for cell phone violations.
Individual State’s Cell Phone Driving Laws
As of May 2008, states and jurisdictions that have enacted state-wide bans on using hand-held cell phones while driving are:
- California (primary enforcement)
- Connecticut (primary enforcement)
- District of Columbia (Washington, D.C.) (primary enforcement)
- New Jersey (primary enforcement)
- New York (primary enforcement)
- U.S. Virgin Islands (primary enforcement)
- Washington (state) (secondary enforcement)
States That Have Passed Laws Banning Cell Phone Texting While Driving
New Jersey (primary enforcement) and Washington state (secondary enforcement) are the only states to specifically ban texting while driving, however, since texting involves the use of hands, other states with bans on hand-held cell phone use while driving may also include texting as a violation of state cell phone laws.
Utah and New Hampshire both have secondary enforcement laws for any kind of cell phone use that is deemed a contributing factor to another traffic violation, or a driver distraction.
Other Cell Phone Laws by State
The following states have passed laws allowing local jurisdictions to govern cell phone use while driving:
- New Mexico (laws also apply state-wide, but only to state vehicles)
Also, seventeen (17) states and the District of Columbia have now passed laws that govern cell phone use for novice drivers.
Fifteen (15) states and the District of Columbia have passed laws the prohibit school bus drivers from any form of cell phone use when students or other passengers are on the bus, except to places calls in the event of an emergency.
Governor’s Highway Safety Association. ”Cell Phone Driving Laws.” Accessed: April 9, 2008.