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Can You Talk on a Cell Phone While Driving, Legally?

Do you talk on your cell phone while driving? They seem to be ubiquitous in our world. Tiny computers tucked away in our pockets or the palms of our hands demanding our attention. 

Instantaneously, we can reach out to friends and family. We don’t even think twice about asking Siri to make a call for us while we drive down the road. 

Join us as we discover the legality of using our phones while behind the wheel.  But, remember, we’re not lawyers giving legal advice. We’re researchers writing about what we learn.

Let’s check it out!

Is It Dangerous to Talk on a Cell Phone While Driving?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report nine people die in the U.S. every day due to distracted driving. If you talk on your phone while driving, your attention isn’t fully on the road. Meaning you could end up being part of these devastating statistics. 

Surely, not me, you think. With a sterling driving record, there’s no way you could be preoccupied. Right? Wrong. Consider these three main types of driving distractions. 

The first is visual, something that takes your eyes off the road. The second distraction is manual. In this case, consider anything that would cause you to take your hands off the steering wheel. And the third is cognitive. If you’re not giving your full attention to driving, you’re taking a risk. 

Your cell phone can cause all three distractions at the same time. If you need to enter a password to accept a call, you look at the phone while one hand is off the wheel. Suddenly, your attention is no longer on driving but rather on the caller.

In reality, many things can make you a distracted driver, not just talking and texting. We suggest you don’t multitask while behind the wheel, no matter what it is. 

Ask a passenger to help you while you’re driving. Or simply wait until you’re at your next stop to make a call or send a text. Roughly 3,000 people die in crashes yearly, so the lethal risks are too high. 

Can You Get Pulled Over for Talking on Your Phone While Driving?

Police can pull you over for talking on your phone while driving. However, laws vary from state to state regarding drivers using the phone behind the wheel. Additionally, cities and counties may enact further restrictions and penalties on top of state regulations.

When it comes to talking on the phone while driving, there are two different kinds of laws. The first, a primary law, means a police officer can pull a driver over and issue a ticket for this particular infraction. 

The second is considered a secondary law. In this case, an officer can give a driver another violation after pulling them over for a primary one. 

Getting pulled over for talking on your phone really depends on your location. The other considerations are the specific local laws and whether the offense is primary or secondary. For example, some localities only allow hands-free talking on the phone. 

What Are the Laws Regarding Cell Phone Use Behind the Wheel?

Many states have stricter restrictions on texting than talking on your phone while driving. But most still have rules regarding cell phone use.

The following states ban talking on your cell phone while driving: California, Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia (D.C.). 

However, each state sets its own specific rules. For example, Arkansas prohibits hand-held talking on a phone when driving through school or construction zones. But other devices, such as Bluetooth and steering wheel controls, may be okay. 

Twenty-five states have hand-held phone talking bans. But in Arizona, it only applies to teen drivers. In Louisiana, novice drivers can’t have their hands on their phones while driving. Many states have hand-held bans for all drivers in any zone. 

If you’re curious about the laws in your state, or any other that you may be visiting, the internet can be a great resource. 

Pro-Tip: Visit to learn about specific state laws for driving while talking on the phone. 

What Are the Penalties for Talking on a Cell Phone While Driving?

Much like the primary and secondary laws mentioned above, penalties vary by state, along with the severity. 

In Alabama, it’s not illegal to talk on your cell phone while driving. Therefore, you won’t get pulled over, and there’s no penalty. But in other states, first offenses may include a fine of $20 to $50. 

And don’t press your luck in Oregon. Talking on your cell phone while driving is a primary moving violation. Your first infraction can cost you up to $1,000. Continued offenses could land you in jail. 

A ticket with a fine always hits hard. Another consequence could be points on your license. These are like demerits. States and insurance companies use them to track violators. 

Even a couple of points can cause your insurance rates to climb. Accumulating too many within a specific time frame could get your license suspended. 

Can You Use Hands-Free Devices In the Car?

But you say you have the latest technology in your vehicle. Is it okay to talk on the phone while driving using hands-free equipment? 

Hands-free devices include speaker phones, dashboard systems, and steering wheel controls. Most of them connect via a wireless system. But they still require a driver to initiate them. Setting up the connection before starting to drive is the best option. 

While these devices may be a little less distracting, talking on the phone at all still takes your focus off your primary job of driving the car. 

Can you legally use hands-free gadgets to talk and drive? If the laws allow it, then technically, yes. But whether it’s a good idea is really up to the individual driver. 

Is Talking on Your Cell Phone While Driving Worth It?

We know it can be hard on those lengthy drives. You want to stay connected to friends and family. Or you may get bored on the long stretches of open road. Even when running short errands around town, you might want to make a quick call back home. 

Despite the laws and hands-free devices, talking on your cell phone creates distractions while driving. It’s not safe and, inevitably, not worth it. We suggest leaving the phone alone unless it’s an emergency. And in that case, pulling over is the safest option.

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