Every day on America’s roads, there are more than 800,000 vehicles with a distracted driver behind the wheel. That alarming statistic—along with the sobering fact that in 2018, more than 2,841 people died due to distracted driving—is why lawmakers across the country continue to view cellphone use in cars as a public safety hazard.
Since New York became the first state to ban drivers from using a hand-held phone in 2001, the specifics of how—and when—to control cellphone use in cars have been debated in different states. In 2020, Idaho, Indiana, and Virginia became the newest states to pass bills prohibiting hand-held cellphone use. South Dakota did the same, but with some exceptions like holding the phone to their ear or using GPS navigation (if drivers aren’t typing in the address information).
Meanwhile, some states specifically ban logging onto social media sites, others define cellphone use by how many times you touch the screen to complete an action, and still, others impose stricter bans for bus drivers or law enforcement officers. Fines can range up to $275 and some states impose more serious penalties, like losing your license, for repeated violations.
Today, there is no state that has a blanket ban on all cellphone use for all drivers. But 24 states and the District of Columbia do have a ban on using hand-held devices, meaning drivers need to opt for hands-free and voice-activated commands when behind the wheel. Forty-eight states and D.C. prohibit text messaging of any kind while operating a vehicle.
Staver Accident Injury Lawyers, P.C. compiled statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on cell phone use trends over nearly two decades as laws, technology, and driver awareness have evolved. Broken down by age, this data looks at how driving behaviors range over different generations. Distracted driving is especially dangerous for teens: They are the most likely to be texting at any given moment, more likely to be recorded driving while using a cell phone, and are most likely to die in a crash involving a distracted driver.