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Distracted Driving: More States Strengthen Cell Phone, Texting Laws

As Americans' dependence on cell phones, Blackberry devices, and other PDAs threatens to rise to the level of a nationwide addiction, state lawmakers are keeping pace by continuing to crack down on use of these devices while driving.

Already this year, five states have strengthened their distracted driving laws by making specific prohibitions against talking on cell phones and sending electronic messages while driving. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the following new laws have been in effect since January: 

  • All Driver Texting Banned: Arkansas, Utah, and Virginia
  • Texting by Young Drivers Banned: Kansas and Mississippi
  • Cell Phone Use by Young Drivers Banned: Arkansas and Kansas

These new laws are only the latest efforts by state lawmakers to combat distracted driving and prevent car accidents. A number of states already ban all handheld use of cell phones by drivers, including California, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Utah, Washington, and the District of Columbia. And at least 20 states currently ban any kind of cell phone use by new drivers, according to the IIHS. (See a State-by-State Listing of Cell Phone and Text Message Laws for Drivers, from IIHS.org)

In January, the National Safety Council went further than any state legislature has gone on cell phone use restrictions for drivers, calling for a ban on all cell phone use (including "hands-free" devices) by anyone driving a car.