Selected SLC Research


Policy Analysis | June 11, 2018

Distracted Driving Laws in SLC Member States

Roger Moore, Policy Analyst

In recent years, states across the South have enacted laws to mitigate distracted driving caused by the proliferation of cell phones and other portable electronic devices. The extent to which the laws impact drivers varies by state, though there are similarities across the region. Fourteen of 15 SLC member states, for example, prohibit all drivers from texting while driving and one, Missouri, prohibits texting by all drivers under the age of 21. Similarly, 10 of the 15 states prohibit all usage of wireless communication devices by novice drivers, generally defined as drivers under 18 years old who hold restricted licenses. Most states in the region have not implemented statewide bans on hand-held devices; however, several states have prohibited the use of hand-held devices in certain areas, such as designated school zones. Only Georgia and West Virginia have banned hand-held devices for all drivers.

Penalties vary widely across the region. Most states have implemented a tiered system whereby drivers face increasingly severe penalties for each subsequent offense. Eight states have fees that do not surpass $100 per violation, while another five states have fees that range between $100 and $300. Two states, Arkansas and Louisiana, permit fees up to $500 and $1,000, respectively, for repeat offenders.

Alabama does not have a statewide hand-held device ban for drivers. However, all drivers are prohibited from texting while driving, and novice drivers – defined as 16- and 17-year-old drivers who hold a restricted driver’s license – are prohibited from using all wireless communication devices while operating a vehicle. Drivers who violate the texting ban are subject to a $25 fine for the first offense, $50 fine for the second offense and a $75 fine for each subsequent offense. Novice drivers who use a mobile device while operating a vehicle are required to hold a restricted driver’s license for an additional six months or until they are 18 years old.

Code of Ala. § 32-5A-350; § 32-6-7.2

Arkansas has a statewide hand-held device ban for drivers under the age of 21, as well as for all drivers operating a vehicle in school zones and highway construction zones. In addition, all drivers are prohibited from texting while driving, and wireless communication devices are banned for school bus drivers and drivers under the age of 18. Drivers who violate any of the bans are subject to fines up to $250 for the first offense and up to $500 for each subsequent offense. If usage of a device results in an accident or collision, drivers are required to pay double the fine imposed.

A.C.A. § 27-51-1604; § 27-51-1609/1610; § 27-51-1504; § 27-51-1506; § 27-51-1603; § 6-19-120

Florida does not have a statewide ban on hand-held devices or any other wireless communication devices for drivers. All drivers are prohibited from texting while driving; however, law enforcement must treat texting as a secondary offense, meaning drivers only can be charged for a violation after they are stopped for a separate infraction. Drivers who violate the texting ban are subject to a $30 fine for the first offense and a $60 fine for each subsequent offense that occurs within five years of a prior infraction.

Fla. Stat. § 316.305

Georgia has a statewide hand-held device ban for all drivers operating a vehicle, effective July 1, 2018. In addition, school bus drivers and drivers under the age of 18 are prohibited from using all wireless communication devices while operating a vehicle. Drivers who violate the hand-held device ban are subject to a fine up to $50 for the first offense, up to $100 for the second offense and up to $150 for each subsequent offense that occurs within two years of a prior infraction. Drivers under the age of 18 who violate the ban on wireless communication devices are subject to a fine of $150.

O.C.G.A § 40-6-165; § 40-6-241

Kentucky does not have a statewide hand-held device ban for drivers. However, all drivers are prohibited from texting while driving, and drivers under the age of 18 are not allowed to use any wireless communication devices while operating a vehicle. School bus drivers also are prohibited from using wireless communication devices. Drivers who violate the bans are subject to fines of $25 for the first offense and $50 for each subsequent offense.

KRS § 189.292; § 189.294; § 189.990

Louisiana does not have a statewide hand-held device ban for drivers. However, all drivers are prohibited from texting while driving, and drivers who have been issued their first license are prohibited from using all wireless communication devices for the first year. School bus drivers and drivers under the age of 18 also are prohibited from using wireless communication devices. Drivers who violate the texting ban are subject to a fine up to $500 for the first offense and up to $1,000 for each subsequent offense. Drivers under the age of 18 who violate the ban on wireless communication devices face fines up to $250 for the first offense and up to $500 and 60-day license suspension for each subsequent offense. If usage of a device results in an accident or collision, drivers are required to pay double the fine imposed.

La. R.S. § 32:289; § 32:300.5; § 32:300.7

Mississippi does not have a statewide hand-held device ban for drivers. However, all drivers are prohibited from texting while driving, and school bus drivers are prohibited from using all wireless communication devices. Drivers who violate the texting ban are subject to a fine of $100 for each offense.

Miss. Code Ann § 63-33-1

Missouri does not have a statewide hand-held device ban for drivers. However, all drivers 21 and younger are prohibited from texting while driving. Drivers who violate the texting ban are subject to a $200 fine.

R.S.Mo § 304.820

North Carolina does not have a statewide hand-held device ban for drivers. However, all drivers are prohibited from texting while driving, and drivers under the age of 18 are banned from using all wireless communication devices while operating a vehicle. School bus drivers also are prohibited from using wireless communication devices. Drivers who violate the texting ban are subject to a fine of $100 for each offense. Meanwhile, drivers under the age of 18 who violate the ban on wireless communication devices are subject to a fine of $25.

N.C. Gen. Stat. § 20.137.3; § 20-137.4

Oklahoma has a statewide hand-held device ban for drivers with learner’s permits and intermediate licenses, and all drivers are prohibited from texting while driving. School bus and public transit drivers are prohibited from using all wireless communication devices. Drivers who violate the texting ban are subject to a fine of $100 for each offense. Those with learner’s permits and intermediate licenses may have their licenses suspended or canceled for using hand-held devices.

Okl. St. § 6-105; § 11-901c; § 11-901d

South Carolina does not have a statewide hand-held device ban for drivers. However, all drivers are prohibited from texting while driving. Drivers who violate the texting ban are subject to a fine of $25.

S.C. Code Ann. § 56-5-3890

Tennessee has a statewide hand-held device ban for all drivers in designated school zones. Additionally, all drivers are prohibited from texting while driving. School bus drivers, as well as drivers under 18 years old, are prohibited from using wireless communication devices. Drivers who violate the ban on texting and hand-held devices are subject to a fine up to $50. In addition, first-time offenders of the ban on texting must attend and complete a driver education course.

Tenn. Code Ann. § 55-8-192; § 55-8-199; § 55-8-207

Texas has a statewide hand-held device ban for drivers within school crossing zones. All drivers are prohibited from texting while driving, and drivers under the age of 18 are banned from using all wireless communication devices while operating a vehicle. School bus drivers also are prohibited from using wireless communication devices. Drivers who violate the bans on texting and hand-held devices are subject to a fine up to $100 for the first offense and up to $200 for each subsequent offense.

Tex. Transp. Code § 545.424-425; § 545.4251

Virginia does not have a statewide ban on hand-held devices for drivers. However, all drivers are prohibited from texting while driving, and drivers under the age of 18 are banned from using all wireless communication devices while operating a vehicle. School bus drivers also are prohibited from using wireless communication devices. Drivers who violate the ban on texting are subject to a fine of $125 for the first offense and $250 for each subsequent offense. Drivers under the age of 18 who violate the ban on wireless communication devices may have their license suspended for up to six months after two infractions.

Va. Code Ann. § 46.2-334.01; § 46.2-919.1 § 46.2-1078.1

West Virginia has a statewide ban on hand-held devices for all drivers operating a vehicle. In addition, drivers with learner’s permits and intermediate licenses are prohibited from operating all wireless communication devices while operating a vehicle. Drivers who violate the ban on hand-held devices are subject to a fine of $100 for the first offense, $200 for the second offense and $300 for each subsequent offense. Those with learner’s permits and intermediate licenses who violate the ban on wireless communication devices are subject to a $25 fine for the first offense, $50 for the second offense and $75 for each subsequent offense.

W. Va. Code § 17B-2-3a; § 17C-14-15

Distracted Driving Laws in SLC Member States
State Hand-Held Device Ban Wireless Communication Device Ban Texting Ban State Code(s)
Alabama No Yes, for novice drivers with restricted driver’s licenses Yes, for all drivers § 32-5A-350
§ 32-6-7.2
Arkansas Yes, for drivers under 21, as well as drivers in school and highway work zones Yes, for drivers under 18 and school bus drivers Yes, for all drivers § 27-51-1604
§ 27-51-1609/1610
§ 27-51-1504
§ 27-51-1506
§ 27-51-1603
§ 6-19-120
Florida No No Yes, for all drivers
(treated as a secondary offense)
§ 316.305
Georgia Yes, for all drivers Yes, for drivers under 18 and school bus drivers Yes, for all drivers § 40-6-165
§ 40-6-241
Kentucky No Yes, for drivers under 18 and school bus drivers Yes, for all drivers § 189.292
§ 189.294
§ 189.990
Louisiana No Yes, for drivers under 18, school bus drivers and all drivers who have been issued their first license (one-year restriction) Yes, for all drivers § 32:289
§ 32:300.5
§ 32:300.7
Mississippi No Yes, for school bus drivers Yes, for all drivers § 63-33-1
Missouri No No Yes, for drivers 21 years old and under § 304.820
North Carolina No Yes, for drivers under 18 and school bus drivers Yes, for all drivers § 20.137.3-4
Oklahoma Yes, for drivers with learner’s permits and intermediate licenses Yes, for school bus and public transit drivers Yes, for all drivers § 6-105
§ 11-901c
§ 11-901d
South Carolina No No Yes, for all drivers § 56-5-3890
Tennessee Yes, for drivers in designated school zones Yes, for drivers under 18 and school bus drivers Yes, for all drivers § 55-8-192
§ 55-8-199
§ 55-8-207
Texas Yes, for drivers in school crossing zones Yes, for drivers under 18 and school bus drivers Yes, for all drivers § 545.424-425
§ 545.4251
Virginia No Yes, for drivers under 18 and school bus drivers Yes, for all drivers § 46.2-334.01
§ 46.2-919.1
§ 46.2-1078.1
West Virginia Yes, for all drivers Yes, for drivers with learner’s permits and intermediate licenses Yes, for all drivers § 17B-2-3a
§ 17C-14-15