Is Texting and Driving a Crime?

There are two fairly new crisis’ that faces the country today, one of them is the highly publicized opioid epidemic and the other is the amount of accidents that are caused every single day due to texting and driving. The two issues could not be more different from each other however they can tragically share the same end result which in many cases can lead to death. If you go back even twenty years ago neither one of these issues most likely ended up on the average American’s radar, yet with the technology where it is today it is no surprise that with it comes a huge responsibility that the majority of people are still coming to grips with.

Everyone has a smartphone these days, which unfortunately also means that many Americans find themselves texting while they are driving their car. Whether it is just trying to get directions on how to get to your friend’s house or wanting to let your parents know you are okay, or even just checking in with a loved one while stopped at a red light there is no denying that there is a very large number of people who are on their phones while driving their vehicle. That then leads to the question, is texting while driving technically against the law?

All forms of texting and driving are illegal in almost all states

The severity of this answer can vary by state but for all intents and purposes texting while driving is regarded almost everywhere as a misdemeanor. This in turn comes with a fine, and depending on the state it can start as low as $25. However, if a car accident occurs as the result of these actions it could be anywhere from a $500 to $1000 fine on top of any of the damages suffered. In addition if the police officer at the scene decides to do so they can add a reckless driving charge on top of any texting violations which takes it up a level to an even more serious crime.

How is texting and driving defined?

Texting while driving is considered any action involving your phone while reading, writing, or sending text messages while you operate a vehicle. This type of distracted driving covers a broad spectrum from using your smartphone, IPod, IPad, or laptop or tablet, as long as any type of message from a text to an email has been received or sent. Regardless of the exact method that you used when you communicated with one of these devices the laws are written in order to cover any of these situations.

Who enforces these laws and how do they vary?

While any federal laws against texting while driving only truly apply to federal employees most states and local municipalities are the ones who have created and continue to enforce any laws on the books against the practice. Some types of these laws may be:

  • “Novice” driver punishment laws- laws against drivers under the age of 18 or 21 depending on the state

  • Texting by public drivers- Many states may not have laws against all drivers but do have a ban in place for any driver of a school bus and/or any drivers of public transit

The dangers of texting and driving

The main reason that texting while driving has been banned in so many areas throughout the country is because the number of accidents that now occur due to texting and driving is extreme and getting bigger by the day. In fact, we have learned that almost nine people die in a phone related car accident every single day and 1000 injuries occur a day due to distracted driving. The sad truth is that the majority of these instances involve America’s youth, as teens are easily the largest group affected by this serious issue. This does not mean that adults are not getting into car accidents while texting and driving in fact it’s far from it, but the numbers in which teens and young drivers are getting into these types of circumstances coincide with the types of actions they are known to take while out on the road.

There are 3 typical yet potentially dangerous actions one can take while they are driving a vehicle:

  1. Taking your eyes off of the road

  2. Not using your hands for anything but driving your car

  3. Distracting yourself from the road while taking your mind off of what you are doing

Texting and driving is considered so dangerous because they incorporate all three of these actions at the same time which increases your chances of being in an accident exponentially. Doing just one of these three things while behind the wheel can be exceedingly dangerous which goes to show just how hazardous the act of texting and driving truly is.

How can these texting while driving laws be enforced?

Some states take this offense more seriously than others but in the majority of states that do carry laws against texting and driving it is normally considered a primary offense. This means that if a police officer catches you doing it they can pull you over with that being the only reason that they decided to do so.

There is also the rare case that the state has a law in place where they can only issue such a ticket if they have already pulled you over for another matter, however this is not how the majority of places choose to handle this issue so you are clearly better off not taking that chance at all.

In addition, because of the extreme variations that occur from state to state from the severity of the texting law to how it is enforced it is important to have a knowledgeable attorney guide you through the specific laws to your case before you decide to go to court. An experience like suffering a car accident is stressful enough, there is no need to try and learn all of the laws and defend yourself in court when someone more qualified can help you do it for you.


No matter what the state or federal laws are for texting and driving the simple fact is you just should not do it. This is easy enough advice to say and common sense would have you believe most people would choose not to do it but the facts show this is sadly not the case. Hopefully more education on this issue will finally get people to stop participating in such a dangerous practice.

From the Author: Jill Cohen