Maximum First-Offense Penalties for Texting and Driving

texting and driving

Most states have laws against texting and driving, but the laws are certainly wide-ranging when you look at how people are punished from one state to another.

Alaska is known as the Last Frontier, home to independent spirits who prefer to be left alone from an over-meddling government. However, the least densely populated of our states has the highest level of financial punishment for those caught texting and driving, leaving the other 49 states in the dust.

If you get caught texting and driving in Alaska, you can be fined $10,000 and be put in jail for a year. To put that into context, the median fine for texting and driving violations in the United States is a mere $100 in comparison.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, four states have no texting ban at all on their books: Montana, South Dakota, Arizona, and South Carolina. Some states have texting ban laws, but cannot pull drivers over for the offense. So, unless you’re speeding while texting (or committing some other moving violation), you are free to do what you please.

New York recently enacted “tougher” distracted driving laws. In fact, AAA New York referred to the changes as “the toughest regulations in the nation” against distracted driving. So, how much tougher is the law now?


If you are caught talking on a handheld phone or texting while driving, the fine has been increased by $50 to $150 for your first offense. That’s right, an offense that has been compared to drinking and driving, warrants a figurative slap on the wrist. Even if you prove yourself to be a habitual distracted driver — getting caught three times in an 18 month period — you will only have to pay $400.

Sure, that’s a good amount of money for most people, but if you are issued three DUIs in that same span, you will have much bigger problems than writing a check for $400.

While there has been some tremendous progress in recent years regarding distracted driving laws, when you consider the statistics and compare them to the relatively lax nature of the punishment, there is plenty of room for improvement.

  • According to a study earlier this year, 43 percent of high school students in the U.S. admit to texting and driving.
  • In 2009, The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute conducted a study and found you are 23 times more likely to be in a car accident if you are texting while driving.
  • According to the CDC, 3,331 people were killed in 2001 in crashes involving a distracted driver.
  • The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has stated that each day in the U.S, more than nine people die and more than 1,060 people are injured in crashes that are reported to involve a distracted driver.
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