What are the laws in each US state on driving while cellphoning?

California will soon enact new legislation around the use of cellphones while driving. Chris Petrell says,
A couple of friends and I were talking recently about cell laws coming up. I know California is about to start requiring hands free devices, but we were unsure about Nevada. So I asked our local sheriff and they did not know off hand, so I looked online.

Here are a few web sites that talk about cellular laws while driving. I don't know how they propose to ban things like the Nextel PTT button, as you have to physically push a button to talk.

Link 1, Link 2.


  1. This isn’t legal advice, but why would they need to specifically address the Nextel PTT button? There is no fundamental ‘right to talk on your cellphone’ that these laws are limiting. They’re simply restricting behavior permitted while driving, just as they require seat-belts.

    The states could, if they chose, presumably even say “no talking on cellphones, period, ever, except for 911”, right? Or are you suggesting they’re discriminating against PPT users?

  2. The law just changed in Jersey: $100 fine. My sister will be in jail or the poor house within the month. :)

  3. Unfortunately this law is pointless – the danger of using a cellphone while driving has nothing to do with a shortage of hands, and everything to do with a shortage of brains.

    We can concentrate on talking on the phone, or on driving, but not on both. Whether one hand is off the wheel to hold the phone up makes no difference to safety. If anything, this might make it worse – with a hands-free set, it becomes easier to have long conversations, and so to spend more time driving while impaired by someone nattering in your ear.

  4. My favorite comment on this was (and I forget where I saw it or I would credit them):

    You’re willing to endanger the lives of yourself, your family, other motorists and pedestrians, all so that you can make smalltalk while driving?

    /Maybe they should publicize the laws a bit more – I saw a cop driving down the street yesterday yakking away and smiling. Sheesh.

  5. Washington State just came out with a law banning messaging while driving and July 1st, you’ll have to have a hands free device.

  6. “Washington State just came out with a law banning messaging while driving…”

    I can’t believe people need a law to tell them this. And people wonder why I don’t like to drive. *grumbles*

  7. I find these laws annoying as…what about smoking while driving? Drinking coffee, water, soda, etc., while driving? Eating while driving? Putting on makeup while driving? Heck, getting dressed while driving (and I saw that once)?

  8. Jeez– next thing you know they’ll want to ban me from watching movies on my in-dash DVD player while I’m driving! Goddamn liberals!

  9. Ban driving. Then you can talk on the cellphone all you want.

    And I can ride my bike again. Safely.

  10. Fredkiesche:

    Those activities are all covered under the broader “Don’t be an idiot” bill, introduced to the Senate in 1927, but voted down on the grounds that it was unfairly biased against politicians.

  11. conversation and physical interaction with your passengers probably accounts for as many accidents as cell phone use. i propose enforcing mandatory passenger gags and straitjackets. oh happy times! happy times!

  12. These laws are pointless. The problem is that bad drivers frequently talk on their cell phone, not that talking on your cell phone makes you a bad driver. If you can’t give preferential attention to the road over the call, it’s not going to matter that you’re not holding the phone in your hand. If somebody don’t respect the complexity of traffic sufficiently to realize when it is inappropriate to have a conversation, taking the phone away will simply mean that they cause accidents by talking to a passenger, groping for something in the back seat, yelling at their kids, reading a book, or merely by spacing out in general.

    If we did a proper job training new drivers, and keeping unprepared drivers off the road (rather than trusting them with our lives even if they couldn’t quite make that 3-point turn), it should be sufficient to trust their judgement with a cell phone. Instead we outlaw the symptom and ignore the problem.

  13. The problem is that bad drivers frequently talk on their cell phone, not that talking on your cell phone makes you a bad driver.

    Could you link to the studies that support that, please? Because there are so many that disprove your point.

    nobody ever calls ME

    You have a license? And a cell phone? Whatever for?

  14. This is why I make all pasangers sit in the back and refuse to interact with them in any way.

    Safety first.

    It annoys my girlfriend, but oh well, it’s for the common good.

    I personally think we should ban everything that annoys other people based on specious reasoning and threats of safety. That’s why I love the TSA.

  15. I don’t know if the laws do much good, outside of making a statement that phoning while driving is dangerous. I’ve nearly been run over more than once by drivers gabbing on cell phones — and the only reason it’s “nearly” is because I was paying attention. They never saw me. And that was in DC, where it is illegal.

    The stupidest thing I’ve seen, though, wasn’t a driver. It was a bicyclist. He was chattering away on his phone while going the wrong way down a one way street. And he wasn’t wearing a helmet. I figure he’s probably gonna show up soon in the Darwin awards.

    As the bumper sticker says, hang up and drive.

  16. I don’t think that talking is nearly as much distraction as holding a phone – after all, drivers have been talking to their passengers forever. Phone users are a disaster tho – I’ve seen people drive up on to the curb, and plough straight through pedestrian crossings because they’ve been on the phone. You just don’t do that type of thing when you’re driving normally (and if people did then, yes, we would have banned driving a long time ago).

    It seems funny that these laws are only coming in now. We had those laws in Australia years ago, although heaps of people still break them.

  17. When a driver has a conversation with a passenger, the passenger picks up on non-verbal queues indicating that the conversation is getting too distracting, as well as the passenger is able to see the road conditions.

    When a driver talks on a cell phone the person on the other end can’t see the road and is not picking up on the non-verbal queues. The conversation gets too engrossing and the driver starts to drive poorly.


    I gave up talking on the phone while driving because I don’t want to be the evil poster driver that will eventually take out a school bus and kill a bunch of kids. I even gave my kid permission to harass me if I use the phone.

  18. Driving while on the phone and driving while drunk have pretty similar collision stats. I agree with Haldor. I don’t want to kill anybody, so I don’t do it anymore.

  19. Driving while using you mobile phone has been banned in the UK for some time now.

    It still doesn’t prevent the odd idiot doing it though (and in one instance I saw a chap lighting a fag and changing the CD at the same time)

    Maia Sturn

  20. We rented a car in NY last fall. The rental guy warned us that it was illegal there to talk on the phone while driving. He told us about a loophole, though: it was not illegal to text while driving.


  21. There is no fundamental ‘right to talk on your cellphone’ that these laws are limiting. They’re simply restricting behavior permitted while driving, just as they require seat-belts.

    If the state bans roadhead, the terrorists win!

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