Hang up and drive! You've seen the bumper sticker, maybe even been behind another driver who was clearly distracted while talking on a cell phone. Not only is it unsafe; in some states, it's actually illegal. Before you drive over the state line (or even answer that ringing cell phone in your car closer to home), take a look at the list we've collected for you that catalogs the laws by state, and even clues you in to other countries with hands-free legislation.
The Freedom of Cell Phones
We all love the freedom that having a cell phone brings to us an our multi-tasking, on the go, constantly booked lifestyles. You can do a last second review with your boss while you are on the way to your off site meeting, or give your friends a blow by blow of your less than stellar blind date, or even make those last second reservations for your anniversary at that small bistro you promised to go to while you are on the way to pick your honey up for the date.
Other people however, primarily those who work in law enforcement or who get to make the laws, see it a little bit differently. They see 30 car pile ups on the highway or the chance to say that they “made a stand to keep the community safe” in order to entice the voting population into giving them another term. The laws designed to remedy this dilemma of distraction are called “hands free” laws, and in a general sense they require that while you are behind the wheel, you do not have a cell phone in your hands.
The problem is that there is not just one easy to follow standard across the nation. The laws that regulate what you have to do when talking while you are driving have quite a bit of variance, depending on the state that you are in at the time, and the requirements can vary from really stringent to almost nothing at all. Fines can run you a couple of hundred dollars, so it is well worth knowing the laws in your state as well as any areas that you may happen to be traveling through, and right here is where you will find everything that you need to keep yourself legal, in every state in the union.
One author’s note: while the information in this article was accurate when this piece was written, changes to state and even to federal laws may render the information in this piece out of date. I strongly suggest that you check with your state police or an attorney licensed to practice in your state if you have any reason to believe that the laws have changed, or if this information has become old. In addition, while I am talking about the laws of the United States, I am a journalist, not a lawyer, and can not give you legal advice of any kind. I will, however, give you this bit of personal advice: it is never a good idea to break the law.
We will break the laws down into categories, as well as covering the special rules that may apply to you if you are a commercial driver, a new driver and even if the state has any laws against texting while you drive. Before you get into searching for your state on the list, let's get an overview of how many states in general have cell phone laws.
Five states, as well as the District of Columbia, have a complete ban on using a hand held cell phone while you're driving, and four states outlaw sending a text message while you're behind the wheel -- unless, of course you are in a special class of driver. In 15 states, school bus drivers can’t use a hand held cell phone while driving, and in 17 states, novice drivers face the same restriction. Now let's take a tour of the laws, state by state.
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