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:
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. 🙂