Car & Driver

Know Your Texting and Driving Facts

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1. Texting and driving is banned in most states.

In fact, only in very few states is it legal to text and drive. All other states have some form of law against it.

In 48 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands, it is illegal for any driver to text and drive. Of these states and territories, all but five have primary enforcement laws banning texting while driving. That means police officers do not need an additional reason to pull you over and give you a ticket.

Other states have secondary enforcement, which means officers need another reason to pull you over (e.g., running a red light) before they can issue you a ticket for texting and driving.

2. You’re probably not as sneaky as you think you are.

When distracted driving (or texting and driving) laws were initially passed, many police officers were concerned about how they would enforce them. How would they catch drivers in the act? It turned out, they didn’t need to worry. People who choose to text and drive — particularly teens — can be oblivious to their surroundings and the dangers of texting and driving accidents.

Do any of the following sound familiar? Keep in mind that if a police officer spots any of these behaviors, they can pull you over on suspicion of texting and driving:

  • Slowing down to try and compensate for the distraction of texting
  • Weaving between lanes
  • Taking an unusually long time to start moving again once the stoplight turns green
  • Staring down into your lap or keeping one hand off the wheel and out of sight

3. Your texts may be used against you.

If you cause an accident where someone is injured or killed, law enforcement can use cell phone records as evidence that you were texting and driving at the time of the crash. Deleting the texts won't matter; most officers will go straight to your cell phone service provider for records that show texts were sent and received.

If you haven't caused an accident but an officer pulls you over on suspicion of texting while driving, the law isn't quite as clear on whether they can seize your phone and search your texts. Consenting to the search does make it legal — and some drivers even offer the phone to prove they weren't texting. However, if you don't consent, a police officer most likely can’t search your phone unless you are arrested or he/she obtains a warrant.

4. Most “texting bans” are about more than texting.

What about taking a photo while driving? Or playing a game on an app? Some states have completely banned the handheld use of cell phones while driving to eliminate any confusion about what is and isn't allowed. You can learn more about your state's laws here.

Regardless of your state, your eyes and focus should be on the road – not your phone. Texting and driving makes a crash up to 23 times more likely. According to a recent study, distracted driving is six times more dangerous than drunk driving. Play it safe and make sure you're on the right side of the law. Eliminate as many distractions as possible when you drive.


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