By: Adam H. Rosenblum Esq. Last Updated: 11/4/19
Data shows about 9 people are killed every day in auto accidents involving a distracted driver. Texting continues to be a major distraction to drivers on the roads nationwide. As such, nearly every state in the U.S. has laws against texting while driving. However, not all laws are created equal, and some states have harsher texting laws than others.
TrafficTickets.com analyzed every texting-while-driving law in the country to determine which are the harshest and which are the most lenient. To do this, our experts looked at both maximum possible fine for a first offense and the number points assigned to the offense. Our methodology also took into account how many points are needed in each state for a license to be suspended. For those states that do not use points, the ranking factors in if and how a texting ticket might lead to a suspended license. The ranking only takes into account state laws and does not include details on specific cities that may have higher fines.
What follows is a ranking of the states from least strict to most strict.
To determine the rankings, our traffic law experts created two values: the first for the maximum fine for a first offense, and the second for the number of points assessed. The fine value was the maximum fine for a first offense divided by 20 (the lowest fine out the 49 states that outlaw texting). The point value was calculated by taking the ratio of points assessed for texting to the suspension threshold and multiplying by 50. For those states that do not have point systems, the ratio was based on the number of moving violations needed for the state to suspend a license, assuming texting is classified as a moving violation. If no points are assessed and the state has no set guidance on how many moving violations are needed for a suspension, or if texting while driving is not classified as a moving violation, then the point value is calculated as zero. The fine and point rankings were then added together to create a final strictness value.
As the only U.S. state with no laws against texting while driving, Montana earns the title of the most lenient. Despite the fact that police will not pull a driver over for texting, it is still an unsafe behavior.
A fine for texting in California costs just $20 for a first offense. In addition, the state does not assign points upon conviction.
New Mexico and South Carolina
These states tied for the third-most lenient states for texting. Drivers can be fined up to $25 for a first offense in either state. Like California, both New Mexico and South Carolina have point systems, but neither assesses points for texting.
A first offense for texting carries a maximum fine of $30 but will not result in points in Iowa.
Delaware and Tennessee
Both states fine drivers up to $50 for a first offense of texting while driving. However, neither will assess points for the offense, even for subsequent offenses.
Drivers ticketed for texting could pay up to $50 for a first offense. Nevada does not assess points for texting on a first offense, but a second conviction within a year means 4 points.
Texting while driving can cost drivers up to $85 in Idaho. Idaho does use a point system, but a conviction for texting does not result in points on one’s license.
Mississippi, New Hampshire, Oklahoma
These three states also charge up to $100 for a first offense of texting while driving. Each also has a point system but does not apply points for texting.
Up in New England, Massachusetts drivers also face a max possible fine of $100 for texting. The state imposes 2 points, but unlike many other states, these points are only used for insurance purposes. Rather, the state keeps tabs on what it calls “major” and “surchargeable” offenses, too many of which can result in a suspended license. Texting does not classify as either, and thus cannot result in a suspension.
The Bluegrass State is one of several states that can fine drivers up to $100 for a first offense of texting while driving. However, drivers will only get points (3) upon a third conviction. This just barely edged the state above others with similar fines.
Drivers in Alabama will only be fined up to $25 for a first offense of texting. This may seem low, but the offense carries 2 points. Those who accrue 12 points over 2 years can have their license suspended, which earns the state’s position above those with slightly higher fines.
A texting while driving ticket can cost up to $70 in Maryland and result in 1 point. Only 8 points are needed over 2 years for a driver to have his/her license suspended by the state.
Many traffic offenses in Vermont result in points but texting while driving is not one of them. However, drivers will face a possible fine of up to $200.
A Georgia texting ticket can set drivers back up to $150 for a first offense. A conviction also means 1 point on the driver’s license. It takes 15 points in 2 years for a driver to have a Georgia license suspended.
Vikings fans (and those from the state who are not Vikings fans) can be fined up to $225 for texting while driving. Minnesota does not have a point system but will suspend a license should the driver be convicted of too many “major” offenses. Texting does not fall into this category.
A texting ticket can cost as much as $100 in South Dakota and can result in 2 points on one’s license. It takes 15 points in 12 months or 22 points within 24 months for a South Dakota license to be suspended.
Residents and tourists in Hawaii can be fined up to $250 for texting while driving. The Aloha State does not have a point system, and while it can suspend licenses over traffic violations, the discretion for this is left entirely to traffic court judges.
At first glance, Arkansas’s $50 max fine for a first offense of texting seems like it should be further down the list. However, the state assesses 3 points upon conviction and drivers who are assessed 14 points within 3 years can have their license suspended.
Texas texting tickets can cost up to $99. The conviction will put 2 points on a Texas driver’s license, and it only takes 12 in 2 years for a suspension.
Drivers in North Carolina can expect a maximum fine of up to $100 for texting while driving plus 2 points. Those who accrue 12 points in a 3-year period could have their license suspended.
A fine of just $25 for a first offense seems lenient on drivers caught texting behind the wheel. But a conviction means 3 points, which is one-quarter of the points (12) needed for a suspended license in Kentucky.
Similar to Kentucky, Florida charges just $30 for a first offense of texting while driving, but will also assess three points. Those who reach 12 points on their license within a year can see it suspended.
Drivers in Virginia face a maximum fine of $125 for texting in the state. A conviction means 3 points on the license. It takes 18 points in 12 months or 24 points in 24 months for a license to be suspended in Virginia.
A Pennsylvania texting ticket costs no more than $50 for a first offense. The driver will also have 3 points assessed on his/her license. In Pennsylvania, it takes 11 points for a license to be suspended. Points only come off a PA license at a rate of 3 for each year the driver goes without a traffic conviction.
In addition to the $125 fine, drivers charged with texting while driving in Connecticut can have 2 points assessed on their license. Those who reach 10 points or more within 24 months could see their license suspended.
A texting ticket in Michigan can cost up to $100 and result in 2 points on one’s license. After 8 points in 2 years, a driver can have his/her license suspended.
Kansas charges no more than $60 for a first offense of texting while driving and has no point system. However, drivers who are convicted of any three moving violations in 12 months can have their license suspended and texting counts as one such violation.
A first offense for texting in New Jersey can cost as much as $400. New Jersey does not assess points for texting until the third offense, at which point it is worth 2 points. It is worth noting that NJ will fine drivers a surcharge should they reach 6 points and suspend a license at 12 points. These points will only drop off one’s license at a rate of 3 points every 3 years. Moreover, unlike most states, New Jersey driving records are permanent; convictions are recorded forever.
Arizona’s texting while driving law does not kick in until 2021. When it does, drivers can face fines of up to $150 for a first offense plus 2 points. Those who reach 8 points in 12 months can have their license suspended.
Drivers in Wyoming face a fine of no more than $75 for a first offense of texting. The offense is considered a moving violation, and the state can suspend the license of any driver convicted of three or more moving violations in a 12-month period.
In Rhode Island, texting while driving can cost up to $85 for a first offense. Like Wyoming and Kansas, the state considers the offense a moving violation and can suspend a license after three convictions in 12 months.
Maine began fining drivers for texting while driving on Sept. 9, 2019. A first offense can cost up to $250 and result in 2 points on one’s license. Drivers can have their license suspended if they accrue 12 points in 12 months.
A maximum fine of $136 applies to any driver convicted of texting behind the wheel in Washington. The state does not use points but will suspend the license of drivers who are convicted of 6 moving violations (including texting) in 12 months or 7 in 24 months.
Drivers convicted of texting in Missouri can be fined up to $200 for a first offense. Texting is a 2-point offense in Missouri, and those who reach 8 points or more in 18 months can see their license suspended.
A Nebraska texting ticket can cost as much as $200 for a first offense and result in 3 points on one’s license. It takes 12 points over a 2-year period for a Nebraska license to be suspended.
Texting while driving in Ohio can cost up to $150 for a first offense. A conviction means 4 points on one’s license, which is one-third of the way to the 12-point threshold for a suspended license.
Indiana does not assess points for texting while driving. However, it will fine drivers as much as $500 for a first offense.
There is no point system in Louisiana and little guidance offered as to what constitutes enough convictions to justify a suspended license. What is known for sure is that a texting while driving ticket in the state can set a driver back as much as $500 for a first offense.
The fine for texting while driving can cost as much as $100 for a first offense in North Dakota. The conviction means a driver will have 6 points assessed on his/her license, which is just half of what is needed for a license to be suspended (12). Moreover, while points do drop off ND licenses eventually, they do so at the rate of 1 point for every 3 months without a conviction.
Texting while driving in Colorado is a moving violation with a fine of up to $300 for a first offense. It is also worth 4 points on one’s license. Drivers who are assessed 12 points in 12 months or 18 in 24 months can see their license suspended.
In New York, texting while driving can cost as much as $200 for a first offense and result in 5 points on one’s license. At 6 points, drivers are charged a Driver Responsibility Assessment (DRA) fee, which costs $300 plus $75 for each additional point. In addition, it only takes 11 points accrued over 18 months for a NY license to be suspended.
Alaska used to have the most aggressive anti-texting laws on the books, charging drivers with a misdemeanor criminal offense. But in 2016, the state changed it to a moving violation with a fine of up to $500 and 2 points on one’s license. A driver who reaches 12 points in 12 months or 18 points in 24 months can have his/her license suspended.
A Wisconsin texting ticket can set drivers back as much as $400. It will also result in 4 points on one’s license. Wisconsin can suspend any license with 12 or more points on it.
As the third-strictest state on texting, Illinois’s $75 fine may seem mild. However, a conviction for texting means 10 points on one’s license and the state can suspend a license that accrues 15 or more points over a 4-year period, making the risk of a suspension very high.
Easily the second-strictest state, Utah will fine drivers as much as $750 for a first offense of texting behind the wheel. In addition, the offense is worth 50 points; those who accrue 200 points in 3 years can have their license suspended.
Oregon secures the position of the strictest state on texting with a maximum fine 10 times the median in the U.S.: $1,000! Oregon does not use a point system, but it can suspend the license of a driver who is convicted of 20 moving violations in 5 years—and there’s no doubt texting counts.
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