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States with Hands Free Laws

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California recently joined the states that make it illegal for you to drive and use a cell phone without a hands-free set, which led me to wonder what other states also make it illegal for you to use a cell phone without a hands-free device. The states that currently have universal handheld bans include: California, Connecticut, Washington DC, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Washington. Of that list, five prohibit their use state-wide while the others prohibit it in certain areas. Chances are, unless you live there, you’ll be driving into and out of various areas so you might as well treat those states as state-wide rather than jurisdiction specific. (Text messaging itself is also prohibited in four states so far: Alaska, Minnesota, New Jersey, and Washington.)

I’ve colored the states with hands-free bans in red, states with local/regional hands-free bans (not state-wide) in orange, in the map below:
USA Map Cell Phone Ban

One important bit of advice is that they are all primary enforcement – meaning a police officer can stop you for this offense alone. If they see you on your cell phone without a hands free set, you can get pulled over. (the only exception is Washington state)

I suspect that more and more states will begin instituting hands-free laws since they’ve been shown to reduce accidents, something we can all agree is a good thing. Also, NPR reported that in the first year of the NY ban, they were able to collected $27M in fines. I’m sure the bean counters in City Hall were pleased, it’s a good way to raise a little revenue.

Teen/Novice Driver Cell Phone Ban

There are also states that prohibit novice drivers, such as teenagers and those with learners permits, from using cell phones at all. Those states are California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Washington DC, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia.

Data provided by the Governors Highway Safety Association but the artistic map was all me. :)

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11 Responses to “States with Hands Free Laws”

  1. john says:

    I gotta love the fact that california, the LAND of cell phones made it illegal to talk and drive. People never pay attention to the road in that state. They are always talking. Plus im sure the Po Po can make some good dollars off of it.

  2. Sheila says:

    I wouldn’t mind more stringent laws in this area. Some people seem to feel like it’s impossible to drive anywhere without a phone stuck to their head. It’s pretty pathetic really. What happened to the good ol’ days of listening to the radio and singing along? :)

    The number of people I see texting while driving is alarming. Sheesh!

  3. CK says:

    Jimbo- Here in Michigan the ban is only in select cities, actually just Detroit I believe. And also for teenagers in their probationary period. I’m free to drive around my locale in Michigan distracted to my hearts content.

  4. CK says:

    PS you missed the Upper Pennisula of Michigan.

  5. forty2 says:

    There is no such law in MA, though I wish there was, and one is proposed but delayed in the state house for some reason. I see dozens of boneheads daily yapping away with a phone mashed to their face while driving like a chimp on speed.

  6. jim says:

    Haha good call CK, thank you.

  7. jim says:

    forty2: Correct, no state-wide law. There’s one in Brookline, so I colored it in.

  8. Carina says:

    “I gotta love the fact that california, the LAND of cell phones made it illegal to talk and drive.”

    No such law exists. California lets you gab and drive as much as you like, as long as the phone is hands-free.

    We’d all be better off if such a law did exist, though. Drivers are more dangerous when talking on the phone than when drunk, for crying. And the insurance industy’s own studies confirm that it’s the mental distraction is the source of those accidents, not whether you’re holding the phone up to the ear or using a headset/speaker. It’d be nice if lawmakers would address the root cause.

    At least California has outlawed new drivers from using cellphones at all when they’re behind the wheel. The last thing an inexperienced driver needs is added distractions.

  9. TSW says:

    You had me worried — I’m an Ohio resident, and I had no idea there was a cell phone ban or restriction in effect here. Turns out, only three towns in the state have such a ban, though there was an email hoax circulating recently. I found a nice summary at http://www.drivinglaws.org/ohio.php. You might want to differentiate the states with state-wide laws from the ones (like Ohio) that allow local restrictions.

  10. jim says:

    TSW: That’s a good point, I’ll work on the map and make them a different color.

  11. MonkeyMonk says:

    With Bluetooth hand’s free is relatively inexpensive and easy to implement. I think this should be mandatory country-wide and is IMO a more important issue that even seatbelt usage since the repercussions often effect others.

    I’ve almost been hit twice and by cars while walking through an intersection in the past couple of years and both times the driver was talking on their cell phone at the time of the incident. Coincidentally, these both happened in Chicago which I believe now has a hands-free law.


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