Despite the countless campaigns, commercials, and court cases centering around distracted driving each year, texting while driving remains one of the leading causes of road accidents in the U.S.
You might be aware that texting while driving is dangerous, but do you know how risky it really is? Moreover, do you know what kind of ticket you could face for texting while driving in your state?
In this article, we will discuss the potential monetary consequences of using your phone while driving in different states. First, though, we’ll reiterate why texting and driving is illegal and explore the cognitive biases behind distracted driving offenses.
Why is Texting and Driving Illegal?
Let’s start with the basics. Everybody knows that texting and driving is against the law (in most states). However, what too many drivers fail to realize is that these laws are in place for a very good reason.
Many drivers underestimate how much their phone can take their attention away from the road. However, studies have shown that texting while driving diverts drivers’ eyes from the road by 400%.
In the U.S., it’s estimated that 1 in 4 car accidents are caused by distracted driving. 1.6 million car accidents in the U.S. each year are caused by cellphone use, resulting in thousands of avoidable fatalities.
Why do People Text and Drive?
‘But wait,’ we hear you ask, ‘if texting and driving is so dangerous, why do so many people still do it?’
The first reason is probably a lack of understanding of the statistical risks. Sometimes, numerical figures like those we referenced earlier aren’t a strong enough deterrent because they can be difficult to process.
For example, someone might know that 390,000 accidents each year are caused by texting and driving, but this number might not mean much. However, in the context of the other statistics surrounding traffic offenses, texting and driving results in six times as many accidents as drunk driving each year. Most drivers would be horrified at the prospect of getting behind the wheel intoxicated, but those same drivers may not think twice about responding to a text message on a seemingly quiet road.
Overconfidence is listed amongst the primary reasons people continue to use their phones while driving, despite knowing the potential consequences. Quite simply, drivers feel that they are alert enough or a ‘good enough driver’ to control their vehicle and be aware of their surroundings while looking at their phone.
This often ties into what psychologists refer to as the Optimism Bias: ‘it won’t happen to me’. The theory of Optimism Bias was first coined by Professor Tali Sharot, who researches cognitive neuroscience in University College London’s Experimental Psychology department. It is estimated that Optimism Bias affects up to 80% of all people.
Sharot’s theory is that Optimism Bias arises through a potentially evolutionary illusion of control. This bias does have its uses since optimism encourages action and a successful mindset. However, it can also provide a sense of security during risk-taking behavior such as reckless or distracted driving.
How Much Can I be Fined for Texting and Driving?
Distracted driving offenses carry some of the heftiest fines of all traffic violations due to the associated accident rate. However, the exact amount you can be ticketed for texting and driving varies from state to state.
If your state of residence has a lower penalty for texting while driving, remember that this is not an indication that doing so is safer in your area. There is no excuse for putting yourself or others at risk on the road, so please don’t text and drive, regardless of the monetary penalty.
$0 - $99
Many U.S. states punish first-time texting and driving offenders with a fine of under $100. This might not seem like a lot of money, considering the dangers involved in distracted driving. Still, just the experience of receiving a ticket and paying a relatively small fine may be enough to deter first-timers from reoffending.
Currently, the only states without statewide fines for texting and driving are Montana and Texas. Many cities within Texas have passed individual legislations concerning texting and driving, however.
Distracted drivers in Alabama, California, Kentucky, New Mexico, and South Carolina get off pretty lightly for a first offense with a $25 ticket. Florida and Iowa aren’t much stricter, presenting cellphone-using drivers with $30 tickets.
In Colorado, Delaware, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Tennesee, texting and driving will earn you a $50 ticket.
Texting and driving in Kansas comes at the cost of a $60 fine.
If you’re driving through Idaho or Rhode Island, you could face an $85 ticket for texting and driving.
$100 - $499
In the U.S, it’s not uncommon for a first texting and driving offense to be met with a round $100 ticket. Arkansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Dakota, Oklahoma, Vermont, and West Virginia all hand out $100 tickets for first-time breaches.
Virginia and Connecticut raise the stakes with $125 tickets.
In Georgia and Ohio, you could be made to pay $150. In Ohio, this may be coupled with a six-month license suspension.
Louisiana’s first-time tickets amount to $175.
In Nebraska and New York, texting while driving just once can land you with a $200 ticket. The same fine applies in Missouri, but only to drivers under 21 and those driving commercially.
Texting and driving in Minnesota carries a penalty of $225.
And you definitely don’t want to be caught texting and driving in New Jersey or Wisconsin - unless you want to pay a $400 ticket.
Certain U.S. states take texting and driving extremely seriously - as they should. In some states, texting and driving carries a fine of over $500.
If you’re caught looking at your phone while driving in either Indiana or Oregon, you could face a $500 ticket.
In Utah, a first distracted driving offense comes with a $750 ticket and the possibility of jail time.
Finally, Alaska lays down the law on texting and driving with tickets $10,0000 and up to a year’s imprisonment.
Please note: All of the figures referenced here are for first offenses. Subsequent distracted driving offenses may result in an increased fine, the loss of your driver’s license, and/or a term of imprisonment.