Laws To Prevent Cellphone Use And Texting While Driving

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Distracted driving causes 10 percent of all auto accidents involving an injury. Two causes of distracted driving are cellphone or smartphone use and texting while driving.

State and federal governments have worked to pass distracted driving laws to help reduce the number of distraction-affected accidents. Currently, 12 states (plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Virgin Islands) prohibit drivers from using handheld cellphones or smartphones, including Washington State. The law is primary enforcement, meaning that a driver may be cited for an offense without any other traffic offense taking place.

  • No state has passed a law that bans all cellphone use by drivers. However, 37 states — including Washington — and the District of Columbia have banned all cellphone use by novice drivers. Unlike other states, Washington does not have a total ban on cell phones for bus drivers.
  • Washington was the first of 41 states (plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Virgin Islands) to pass a law banning texting while driving. Like the handheld cellphone ban, texting while driving is a primary offense and the law applies to all drivers.
  • Some local governments across the United States have passed their own distracted-driving laws, but some states bar the localities from enacting those types of laws.

The federal government is also working to prevent distracted driving. In 2009, President Obama signed an executive order that bans federal employees from texting while driving on government business or while using government equipment. In 2010, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration banned commercial vehicle drivers from texting while driving.