It’s ancient history now, but decades ago it took some time for all fifty states to adopt laws requiring seat belts and outlawing drinking and driving. Right now, states are in the process of addressing a similar issue: using cellphones while driving.
Nevada and Pennsylvania are the two states to recently pass laws restricting cellphone usage while behind the wheel. Even so, there are still 15 states that do not have laws on the books that specifically prohibit texting while driving.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety keeps track of cellphone-related laws for each state so that auto insurance companies can adjust their policy premiums accordingly. Here is a chart showing which states have enacted bans on texting and cellphone use while driving:
Illegal to text while driving?
Illegal to use cell while driving?
|Arkansas||Yes||Yes (under 21)|
|Illinois||Yes||In school/construction zones|
|Louisiana||Yes||For probationary drivers|
|Nevada||Yes (as of 1/12/12)||Yes (as of 1/12/12)|
|New Mexico||No||For in-state vehicles|
|Oklahoma||No||For probationary drivers|
|Pennsylvania||Yes (as of 3/12)||No|
|Texas||In school zones||In school zones|
In addition, several states that don’t have total bans on their books have addressed distracted driving in some other way. For example, cellphone use while driving is covered under a comprehensive distracted driving law in New Hampshire and a separate distracted driving category in Utah. All of the counties in Hawaii have implemented distracted driving ordinances. And police in Idaho and South Carolina can list distracted driving as a contributing factor when issuing a citation.
It is also important to note that no state has completely outlawed all cellphone usage while driving (most make exceptions for “hands-free” devices). Lawmakers also want to encourage motorists to use their cellphones in cases of emergency, even if people are driving while doing so. Therefore, it appears that an all-out ban on cellphone use while driving doesn’t appear to be on the horizon. However, history shows that the vast majority of states will be in agreement on this issue in a decade or two.