Cell Phone Accident Law

What Are Cell Phone Accidents?

Cell Phone Accidents occur when drivers use their mobile devices while driving, resulting in distraction that leads to a car accident. Several states and countries have implemented laws banning or restricting the use of mobile devices while driving.

Distracted Driving Laws

Distracted driving laws pertain to using various devices for different purposes while driving. 12 states and Washington D.C. have laws against drivers using a cell phone without a hands-free device while driving. These states also have “primary enforcement” authority, meaning a driver does not have to otherwise present probable cause for a stop; simply using a cell phone is sufficient to allow an officer to pull someone over and give them a ticket. While no states yet ban all cell phone use for all drivers, 37 states and D.C. ban all cell phone use by novice drivers, and 20 states and D.C. prohibit it for school bus drivers.

Similarly, text messaging bans are sweeping the nation. While Washington was the first state to pass a texting ban in 2007, 41 other states and the District of Columbia have joined suit and now ban text messaging for all drivers, six others ban it for novice drivers, and three ban it for bus drivers. All but four of these states have “primary enforcement” for text messaging, as well.

Local Laws

In addition to state laws, some jurisdictions allow local governments to pass bans on mobile device use. That means while using a cell phone without a hands-free device might be legal elsewhere in the state, within certain counties or cities it may not. Check with local law enforcement to know for sure. Other states, like Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Oklahoma, prohibit such practices.

Other Prohibited Practices

While most distracted driving laws deal with phone calls and text messages while driving, other practices are likely prohibited, as well. Some may be expressly banned by statute, case law, or as a reasonable extension of the law. For example, playing a video game, watching a video, or composing an e-mail are likely all banned activities, as well, in jurisdictions that have restrictions on the use of mobile devices, even if not expressly set forth in the statute. Remember, driving is a privilege, not a right, so laws regarding prohibited activities are often liberally construed to achieve the intended objective of the law.


Many of these statutes make it the fault, per se, of any person involved in an accident who was using a mobile device improperly. Even in states without bans on the use of cell phones (or certain uses for mobile devices while driving), a driver's liability for an accident may often be proved by the fact that they were distracted by use of the device. For that reason, even if one is not concerned about receiving a ticket, it is wise to avoid using a mobile device while driving in order to avoid being liable for an accident, especially if the accident would not otherwise have been the distracted driver's fault.

If you would like more information about cell phone accident laws, you can review the materials found below, or you can contact an attorney in your area. A list of attorneys may be found on our Law Firms page.

Copyright HG.org.

Cell Phone Accident Law - US

  • Cell Phone Driving Laws

    According to research published in 2005 by the British Medical Journal, those who talk on a cell phone while driving are four times as likely to get in a car accident as those who do not talk on the phone while driving. These findings are not new or surprising. In fact, studies as early as 1997 have indicated that cell phone usage distracts drivers and can even reduce reaction time (Accident Analysis & Prevention). Using research like this, several states have made talking on hand-held cell phones illegal while driving, including California, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Washington and Washington, DC.

  • Cell Phone Driving Laws by the GHSA

    Current state cell phone driving law highlights include the following: * Handheld Cell Phone Bans for All Drivers: 6 states (California, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Oregon and Washington), the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands prohibit all drivers from talking on handheld cell phones while driving. o With the exception of Washington State, these laws are all primary enforcement—an officer may ticket a driver for using a handheld cell phone while driving without any other traffic offense taking place. * All Cell Phone Bans: No state completely bans all types of cell phone use (handheld and hands-free) for all drivers, but many prohibit cell phone use by certain segments of the population. o Novice Drivers: 21 states and the District of Columbia ban all cell use by novice drivers. o School Bus Drivers: In 16 states and the District of Columbia, school bus drivers are prohibited from all cell phone use when passengers are present. * Text Messaging: 17 states and the District of Columbia now ban text messaging for all drivers. o Novice Drivers: 9 states prohibit text messaging by novice drivers. o School Bus Drivers: 1 state restricts school bus drivers from texting while driving.

  • Cell Phone Law - DMV New York

    New York State has passed a law that does not allow you to use a hand-held mobile telephone while you drive. If you use a hand-held mobile telephone while you drive, except to call 911 or to contact medical, fire or police personnel about an emergency, you can receive a traffic ticket and pay a maximum fine of $100 and mandatory surcharges of $60.

  • Cell Phone Laws (DOT)

    Cell phones have become an essential feature of modern life. In June 2004, about 170 million Americans had a cell phone, an increase of more than 20 million from 2003 (CITA, 2004). About two out of every three drivers now have a cell phone, and before long almost all of them will. In NHTSA's 2002 national telephone survey, 60 percent of drivers reported that they had a cell phone and about one-third of all drivers used a cell phone at some time while driving (Royal, 2003, p. 20). NHTSA's 2002 national observation survey found that 4 percent of drivers on the road at any time were using handheld cell phones (Glassbrenner, 2003). Several statewide surveys found similar use rates (McCartt and Hellinga, 2005).

  • Cell Phone Laws and Legislation by State

    See what your state’s cell phone and texting laws for drivers require — or are about to require. Almost all of the 50 states have restrictions on drivers’ use of cell phones, or are wrangling with various plans to limit their use. Text messaging while driving also has come under fire, as law officers increasingly encounter accidents caused by young people

  • Cellphone Laws

    A jurisdiction-wide ban on driving while talking on a hand-held cellphone is in place in 7 states (California, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Utah, and Washington) and the District of Columbia. Utah has named the offense careless driving. Under the Utah law, no one commits an offense when speaking on a cellphone unless they are also committing some other moving violation other than speeding.

  • Federal Government Looking at Cell Phone Laws

    Tiffany DeGroft spent the last moments of her life last October swapping text messages with her boyfriend as she drove down Braddock Road in Centreville, Va., police said. His last text message read: "Why the (expletive) aren't you answering me now?" About that moment, the road curved right, and DeGroft's 2002 Jaguar went straight. The car crossed the center line and went into the oncoming lane. DeGroft apparently looked up but hit the brakes too late, plowing through trees, hitting a picket fence and smashing into a shed. Investigators said a piece of fence shattered the window and killed her.

  • Florida Cell-Phone Laws

    While there is not currently (4/11/09) a cell-phone or text-messaging law in the State of Florida, there are several bills working their way through the legislative process in 2009.

  • Government Research on Cell Phone Driving Accidents Suppressed for Six Years

    The United States Department of Transportation wanted to conduct a study of 10,000 drivers over time to assess the risk of cell phone use. This was in 2003. The Department collected substantial research and statistics and ultimately did not publish or otherwise make public its findings beyond a simple bibliography of articles on the subject.

  • Latest Updates on Handsfree Laws - DMV California

    "Starting January 1, 2009 a new law will go into effect where writing, sending, or reading a text-based communication while driving will be against the law for all drivers in California. This new law applies to electronic wireless communications devices used to manually communicate with any person using text-based communication, including, but not limited to, communications referred to as a text message, instant message, or electronic mail. Violating this law is punishable by a base fine of $20 for a first offense and $50 for each subsequent offense. With the addition of penalty assessments, fines can be more than triple the base fine amount."

  • New Cell Phone Laws in Hawaii

    If you're visiting Hawaii, bring your Bluetooth for your cell phone. * On Oahu (the island everyone first arrives on, where Honolulu is), you may not use a handheld cell phone or any other handheld electronic device while behind the wheel. * Even holding a phone in your hands at a traffic light can get you a $67 ticket if there's a police officer next to you. * This law applies to iPods, cameras, and any other electronic handheld device, too. On January 1, 2010, the Big Island (Hawaii) will follow suit, issuing fines of up to $150 for not using a handsfree device. The other islands are expected to pass these laws as well.

  • New Mexico Driving and Cell-Phone Legislation

    The State of New Mexico does not have a state-wide cell-phone law, however the State does allow localities to enact their own cell-phone legislation. Two cities, Santa Fe and Albuquerque have chosen to enact their own legislation regarding the use of cell-phones while driving. The Santa Fe law falls under Ordinance Number 2006-34 and is part of their "Uniform Traffic Code". Cell-phone use while driving in Santa Fe falls under "Prohibited Activities" while operating a motor vehicle. There are no exceptions for hands-free devices and violators of the driving law will receive a $60 fine.

  • Oregon Law Restricts Use of Cell Phones and Text Messaging by Teens

    As of January 1, 2008, you are not allowed to "operate a motor vehicle while using a mobile communication device" if you are under 18 years of age and hold: 1) an instruction permit; 2) a provisional driver license; or 3) a special student driver permit. A mobile communication device is defined as "a text messaging device or a wireless, two-way communication device designed to receive and transmit voice or text communication." The offense, operating a motor vehicle while using a mobile communication device, is a Class D traffic violation. A conviction for this violation counts toward the Provisional Driver Improvement Program.

  • Tennessee New Cell Phone Laws

    Any learner permit or intermediate driver license holder cannot use a cell phone (hand-held or hands-free) or any other type of mobile communications device while driving. It's illegal for anyone to type or read a text message while driving. Also, anyone driving a school bus may not use a cell phone, unless it's to report an emergency situation.

  • Text Messaging Law and Cellular Phone Laws in California

    The new Wireless Communications Device Law (effective January 1, 2009) makes it an infraction to write, send, or read text-based communication on an electronic wireless communications device, such as a cell phone, while driving a motor vehicle. Two additional laws dealing with the use of wireless telephones while driving went into effect July 1, 2008. The first law prohibits all drivers from using a handheld wireless telephone while operating a motor vehicle, (California Vehicle Code [VC] §23123). Motorists 18 and over may use a “hands-free device. The second law effective July 1, 2008, prohibits drivers under the age of 18 from using a wireless telephone or hands-free device while operating a motor vehicle (VC §23124).

  • Texting While Driving is Unsafe and Unlawful - DMV News Releases - Virginia

    Virginians who send text messages or emails while driving after July 1 will be violating the law and will face a $20 fine. The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles' (DMV) Virginia Highway Safety Office encourages motorists to avoid distractions, such as texting while driving. Last year, 28,395 crashes occurred in the Commonwealth involving driver distraction. Of those, 114 people died and 14,480 were injured. The new law banning texting and emailing passed by the General Assembly has several exceptions including emergency vehicle operators, drivers reporting an emergency or a driver who is parked. Also, texting while driving is a secondary offense, meaning a law enforcement officer must have a different reason to stop or arrest the driver. The fine is $20 for a first offense and $50 for a second offense.

Cell Phone Accident Law - Europe

  • Ban on Mobile Phone Use while Driving - Netherlands

    As of 30 March 2002, drivers have been banned from having a mobile phone in their hands when they are in a moving motor vehicle, a vehicle for the disabled or when riding a moped. The ban only applies to drivers/riders of these vehicles when the vehicle is moving. Drivers who park or stop at the roadside are therefore allowed to use their mobile. You may only use your mobile while the vehicle is moving if you call hands-free.

  • European Transport Safety Council (ETSC)

    ETSC is a Brussels-based independent non-profitmaking organisation dedicated to the reduction of the number and severity of transport crash injuries in Europe. Founded in 1993, ETSC provides an impartial source of expert advice on transport safety matters to the European Commission, the European Parliament, and Member States. It maintains its independence through funding from a variety of sources including membership subscriptions, the European Commission, and public and private sector support for various activities.

  • French Road Traffic Code

    France: under section 412-6 of the French Road Traffic Code (presumably the equivalent of the UK Highway Code) a driver must always be in a position to execute any manoeuvres s/he needs to perform. In December 1999 the then Minister of Justice issued a policy guideline to the courts that this section of the Code should apply to drivers using a mobile phone while driving. It is punishable by a “second class” penalty (a fine of €152.45, or about £90).

  • Policy for Prosecuting Cases of Bad Driving - UK

    This document explains the way in which we, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), deal with cases involving bad driving. It supplements and is subordinate to the Code for Crown Prosecutors. Bad driving resulting in death or injury has devastating consequences for victims and their families and friends, and it is important that justice is seen to be done in cases where this has happened.

  • Road Safety GB

    Road Safety GB (formerly LARSOA) is a national road safety organization that represents local government road safety teams across the UK. Road Safety GB supports RSOs in fulfilling their statutory role - to reduce the number and severity of road accidents through education, training and publicity policies and programmes. Road Safety GB seeks to influence national debate - government policy and action, and public opinion - and works with other organizations to achieve common goals.

Cell Phone Accident Law - International

  • Canada Safety Council - Safe Driving - It's Your Call

    Many of the 15 million wireless phones in Canada are used in motor vehicles. With a cell phone in the car you can call for help or report a dangerous situation; Canadians use wireless phones to call 9-1-1 over six million times annually. If you drive with a cell phone, avoid unnecessary calls and always make the driving task your top priority.

  • Countries that Ban Cell Phones while Driving

    This page lists those countries that have banned the use of a cell phone when driving unless used with some form of hands-free kit.

  • Distracted Driving Laws in Canada

    Information on a summary of laws of provincial or territorial departments of Transportation

  • Driving: Mobile Phones - Road Vehicles - United Kingdom

    Since 1 December 2003 it has been an offense for an individual to drive a motor vehicle on a road if the driver is using a hand held mobile telephone or similar device. Since February 2007 this has been an endorseable offense, punishable with three penalty points on the license and a £60 fixed penalty.

  • Land Transport (Road User) Amendment Rule - New Zealand

    The main change proposed in the amendment Rule addresses the risks to safety arising from the use of mobile phones while driving. The number of crashes associated with the use of mobile phones and, in particular, serious injury crashes has increased steadily over the last five years.

Organizations Related to Cell Phone Accidents

  • AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety

    The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety is dedicated to saving lives and reducing injuries on the roads. It is a not-for-profit, publicly-supported charitable educational and research organization. Since 1947, the Foundation has funded over 170 research projects designed to discover the causes of traffic crashes, prevent them, and minimize injuries when they do occur. We have used this research to develop dozens of focused, high-impact educational materials for drivers, pedestrians, bicyclists and other road users.

  • Applied Cognition Laboratory

    The long-term objective or our research is to understand the impact of using advanced in-car technologies on driving performance and traffic safety. Our research addresses three specific goals limited to the most prominent communication technology, the cellular phone. First, we provide unambiguous scientific evidence demonstrating that cell phone conversations disrupt driving performance. Second, we compare and contrast the increased risk associated with cell phone use relative to other real-world activities. Finally, we provide a theoretical account for why cell phone use disrupts driving performance.

  • Cell Phones on the Road

    Any task a driver performs while driving is a potential distraction. It is best to use your cellular phone when you are stopped, but if you must use your phone while driving it is important to check traffic conditions before placing a phone call or performing any task, and if necessary, wait until conditions improve to make your call. Learn how your cellular phone operates while parked. If possible, dial while the car is not in motion. Program frequently used numbers into your phone. If a number is not programmed into memory, dial in short segments, check the traffic, and dial another segment. Never allow your conversation to distract you from driving. Keep calls brief. Keep your eyes on the road, and frequently check the side and rear view mirrors.

  • Partnership for Safe Driving

    The Partnership for Safe Driving is a non-profit organization dedicated to educating Americans about all forms of dangerous driving and halting the epidemic of motor vehicle crashes in our society. Founded in February 1997 and headquartered in Washington, DC, we are working to change the driving culture in America through education, research, and grassroots activism.

Publications Related to Cell Phone Accidents

  • The Effect of Cellular Phone Use Upon Driver Attention by James McKnight A. Scott McKnight

    One of the most popular innovations in automotive travel in the past decade has nothing to do with the automobile itself, the people who drive them, or the roads over which they operate. Rather, it is the ability to carry on telephone conversations while driving. What CB radios were to the '70s, cellular phones were to the '80s. From early 1984, when the first complete systems became operational, the number of cellular phone users has grown to over two million. By the mid-'90s, when cellular service will be available throughout most population centers in the United States, the number of subscribers is expected to grow to between ten and twenty million. While cellular phones are really elements of communication rather than transportation, their potential impact upon the latter is sizable. The prospect of twenty million drivers having the opportunity to place, receive, or handle a telephone call while driving is not something easily ignored.

  • An Investigation of the Safety Implications of Wireless Communications in Vehicles

    The wireless communications industry is perhaps matched only by the personal computer field in the rate at which new products and features are being introduced to the marketplace. In the two years since the research for this report was initiated, the technology has changed dramatically and what was once a novelty, used primarily by businesses, has now become commonplace among the masses. Today, cellular telephones are owned by more than 50 million Americans and new technological breakthroughs have seen a migration from analog to digital architectures along with the recent introduction of "Personal Communications Services (PCS)" as a competitor to the cellular market. Driven by these developments, new capabilities beyond voice communications are being made available at an accelerated rate, compelling the user to upgrade to palm-size devices that allow activities such as checking of e-mail, "surfing the net," receiving stock quotes - from the classroom, the beach or perhaps from our vehicles.

  • New Data from VTTI Provides Insight into Cell Phone Use and Driving Distraction

    Several large–scale, naturalistic driving studies (using sophisticated cameras and instrumentation in participants' personal vehicles) conducted by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI), provide a clear picture of driver distraction and cell phone use under real–world driving conditions. Combined, these studies continuously observed drivers for more than 6 million miles of driving. "Given recent catastrophic crash events and disturbing trends, there is an alarming amount of misinformation and confusion regarding cell phone and texting use while behind the wheel of a vehicle. The findings from our research at VTTI can help begin to clear up these misconceptions as they are based on real–world driving data. We conduct transportation safety research in an effort to equip the public with information that can save lives," says Dr. Tom Dingus, director of the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute.

  • Reducing the Risk of Cell Phone Related Car Accidents

    The number of cell phone related accidents is on the rise. With more and more research indicating a positive correlation between cell phone use and car accidents, it is important to do what you can to be as safe as possible while driving. While the best way to reduce cell phone related car accidents is to simply not talk on a cell phone while driving, if you find you must make a call while behind the wheel, there are several important safety tips you should follow.

Articles on HG.org Related to Cell Phone Accidents

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  • Why Should You Always Call the Police after a Crash?
    It’s always good to know beforehand what to do if you’re ever in a vehicle accident, to protect your health and legal position. Many circumstances require you to call the police immediately. The primary exception is if the accident is minor with virtually no property damage and there are no injuries.
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  • Am I Allowed to Switch Lawyers? Should I?
    Generally, you are allowed to switch lawyers in the middle of your case. Whatever your reason for getting another attorney may be, you are allowed to drop your current attorney and hire another one.
  • Should I Accept What the Insurance Company Is Offering Me after a Car Accident?
    Before you accept any offer from an insurance company, make sure to have your offer reviewed by a personal injury attorney. In the vast majority of situations, the insurance company is not offering you as much as they could and/or should for your injuries.
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  • Do I Need to Hire an Attorney After a Car Accident
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