Many states regularly update their distracted driving laws. 2021 is shaping up to be no different. This year, several states have added to their existing laws. Texting has been banned across the board for some time in all states, but how you can use a cell phone or if you can use it at all is still a state-by-state matter. Here’s a look at some of the updates in 2021.
New Hands Free Driving Laws in Arizona, Virginia, and Idaho
Arizona’s hands-free driving law went into effect on January 1, 2021. Under the law, drivers are forbidden to hold a cell phone in their hands while driving. You also can't type or swipe while you drive. Virginia, too, has a hands-free law going into effect on July 1 that makes it illegal to hold a cell phone while you drive. Rounding out the trio, Idaho added to its law by requiring all drivers to be hands-free as of January 1, even while stopped at a stoplight or stop sign.
In Arizona, the law also now allows an officer to pull you over if you are seen holding a cell phone, even if there’s no effect on your driving. You also can’t watch or record videos, and you can’t talk, text, or check social media on your phone in either Virginia or Arizona.
In Virginia, the law also outlines how an offense will carry a $125 fine for the first violation and a $250 fine for subsequent ones. There's also a $250 fine for a highway work zone violation. In Arizona, the first violation earns a fine between $75 and $149. The second and all subsequent fine is between $150 and $250. In Arizona, a driver who causes an accident while using a phone can be charged with a misdemeanor, be ordered to pay restitution of up to $100,000, and could even serve six months in jail.
And in Idaho, you'll pay $75 for the first offense, $150 for the second, and $300 for the third. If you get three or more offenses, you also face a license suspension of up to 90 days.
Want to learn more about these laws? Don't worry, we cover them all in our state-approved driver’s license education programs.
California Distracted Driving Law Updates
This year, the Golden State enacted a new rule to its existing distracted driving laws that adds a point to your record if you have been cited for a violation in the past 36 months. Adding points to your record could have an effect on your car insurance rates. You may need to take a traffic safety course to remove points. In addition, four points within 12 months, six within 24 months, and eight within 36 months could lead to a license suspension.
Details May Vary Depending on Where You Are
Distracted driving laws vary state by state. So, sometimes, if you don’t know the rules, your best bet may be to simply not use your phone at all while driving.
“It is imperative … to consider the fact that law languages differ by state," explained David Clark, of The Clark Law Office, in Michigan. "In any case, these laws empower law enforcement both on a primary and secondary level. Primary enforcement … is when a police officer pulls a driver over and cites him for text messaging. Secondary enforcement would be when a police officer cites drivers with violations to the DDL (distracted driving laws) when they’re pulled over for another offense.”
And the laws can even vary on local, city, and municipal levels.
“In states where some degree of handheld cell phone use is permitted, many cities and counties have independently banned handheld electronic devices while driving," added Melanie Musson, a traffic law expert with CarInsuranceComparison.com. "So, just because there isn’t a state law, you can’t assume you’re good-to-go to use a cell phone while driving."