About 14% of traffic accidents involve a driver distracted by a cell phone. More than half (8% total) involve the driver texting or using other smartphone functions other than making calls. As such, all states except Montana have put in place some form of texting while driving ban. Often called “distracted driving,” the exact bans vary in terms of what is limited and what is not. Universally, all such laws bar drivers from typing and texting or otherwise staring at the phone while holding it.
TrafficTickets.com compiled a list of every texting while driving law in the country to determine which are the most and least expensive. The ranking is based on the maximum possible fine for a first offense. It also leaves out cities that may have their own, more costly fines.
Texting While Driving Ticket Fines by State
By a technicality, California ranks as the least expensive state to be ticketed for texting while driving. While the $20 maximum fine for a first offense is low, it is not the whole story. Court costs and other fees can bring the total cost up to as much as $150.
Source: CA 12-1-23123.5
- Alabama, Kentucky, New Mexico and South Carolina
With a fine of up to $25 for a first offense, these four states are tied for the second-least expensive states to get a texting ticket.
- Florida and Iowa
Neither state bans talking on the phone while driving, but both will fine drivers up to $30 for texting behind the wheel.
- Arkansas, Delaware, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Tennessee
A first offense for texting while driving in these states can cost as much as $50.
You’ll be glad you’re not in Kansas anymore if you get a $60 ticket for texting while driving there.
Source: KS 8-15-111
Drivers in Maryland can be fined as much as $70 for a first offense of texting while driving.
Source: MD CODE§ 21–1124.1
- Illinois and Wyoming
The maximum fine for a first offense of texting is $75 in Illinois and Wyoming. The former will apply points for the offense, but the latter does not.
- Idaho and Rhode Island
Police in Idaho and Rhode Island can issue tickets for as much as $85 for texting while driving.
Police in Texas only chase down drivers on cell phones in school or work zones, or in cities that have their own specific bans. However, texting is banned statewide and comes with a fine of $99 plus 2 points.
Source: TX Sec. 545.4251
- Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, North Carolina, North Dakota, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, South Dakota, West Virginia
With a $100 maximum fine for a first offense of texting behind the wheel, these states secure a nine-way-tie for 12th place on this list.
- Connecticut and Virginia
Both states also tied for their spot on the list of most expensive cell phone tickets. The same fine of $125 applies here as well.
The first state to outlaw texting while driving fines drivers as much as $136 for a first offense.
Source: RCW 46.61.672
- Arizona, Georgia and Ohio
All three states charge a maximum fine of $150 for texting while driving. Drivers in Arizona are not currently being fined for the offense, but will starting in 2021.
- Missouri, Nebraska, New York, and Vermont
Texting while driving in these four states can result in a maximum fine of $200. New York will also assess 5 points, which is nearly halfway toward license suspension.
Drivers ticketed for texting behind the wheel face a maximum possible fine of $225 for a first offense.
Source: MN 169.475
- Hawaii and Maine
Surfing and chilling on the beach are great things to do in Hawaii; texting while driving, not so much. A first offense can net someone a $250 fine. Maine, which began issuing fines for texting on Sept. 19, 2019, can charge equally as much.
Despite having no law against phone calls while driving, Colorado can fine drivers as much as $300 for texting behind the wheel. Minors catch a break, and will be fined no more than $50.
Source: C.R.S. § 42-4-239
- New Jersey and Wisconsin
Normally these two states have very little in common, but each charges drivers as much as $400 for a first offense of texting.
- Alaska, Indiana and Louisiana
A driver can hold their phone to take or make a call while driving in all three states. However, if police observe a driver texting, then it could mean a ticket for as much as $500. In Alaska–which lowered the fine to $500 from $10,000 in 2016–if the offense results in an accident, the fine can rise to as much as $100,000, plus one year in jail and a felony charge.
Utah’s $750 fine for texting while driving is certainly expensive, but it’s not the full penalty. The state considers the offense a misdemeanor and can jail drivers for as much as 3 months upon conviction. Worse, if the offense plays a role in an accident that results in injury, the fine can skyrocket to as much as $10,000. Thankfully, texting is considered a secondary offense, meaning police cannot conduct a traffic stop for texting alone.
Source: UT Code § 41-6a-1716(2)
In addition to having the most expensive cell phone fine in the U.S., Oregon also boasts the most expensive texting fine at $1,000.
Source: O.R.S. § 811.507
Do Texting and Cell Phone Bans Work?
Previous research conducted by TrafficTickets.com found no relationship between cell phone/texting tickets and accidents in which such violations are a factor. However, one nationwide study found that it is not all in vain. In 2018, Safewise analyzed the cell phone and texting laws of all 50 states, how many such tickets were issued, and the number of accidents per capita in those states.
Turns out, the cost of the ticket had little influence on the number of fatalities per 100,000 licensed drivers. The number of tickets issued did have some correlation. For example, three states with the most tickets per 100,000 licensed drivers also had some of the fewest accident fatalities per capita: New York, D.C., and New Jersey. However, while several states reported writing no tickets for cell phone or texting violations, only one such state was listed among those with the most crash fatalities (Wyoming).