- Texting-while-driving penalties vary wildly from state to state and range from $20 to $10,000, a new study found.
- Texting while driving in Alaska, the state with the harshest penalties, could result in a $10,000 fine and a year in prison.
- Virginia, the most lenient state, levies just a $20 fine for the same infraction.
RANCHO CUCAMONGA, California — Texting-while-driving penalties vary wildly from state to state and range from $20 to $10,000, a new study found.
OnlineAutoInsurance.com surveyed the laws and found that texting while driving in Alaska could result in a $10,000 fine and a year in prison, making it the state with the harshest penalties. Meanwhile in Virginia, the most lenient state, the consequence for the same infraction would be just a $20 fine.
According to the study, the list of the top five most severe states is rounded out by Utah with a $750 fine and 90-day jail sentence, Maine with a $500 fine, Wisconsin with a fine of $400, and New York with a $235 fine. For good measure, Wisconsin and New York also add points to a violator's driver's license.
The states with the lowest fines, following Virginia, are Iowa ($30), Indiana ($35.50), Delaware ($50) and Pennsylvania (also $50). For a complete listing of state-by-state penalties, go to OnlineAutoInsurance.com.
OnlineAutoInsurance.com notes that these are the maximum penalties when no accident has occurred. In cases where texting while driving results in damage or injury, the punishment can go up quite sharply. In Alaska, for example, a fatality caused by texting on the road could land the perpetrator in prison for 20 years.
To learn how penalties for texting while driving compared in different areas, the study's authors went through the laws of the 39 states that have enacted bans. Then they reported on maximum fines, jail time, enforcement guidelines and insurance increases for a first offense. They took all these factors into account when reporting the most and least severe penalties.
Although laws against distracted driving had been in place for years, Washington was the first to place a specific ban on texting while driving. That law took effect on January 1, 2008. The penalty consisted of a $100 fine and the confiscation of the violator's phone.
The most recent state to pass such a ban is Ohio, where the law took effect on March 1, 2013, and carries a fine of $150.
Edmunds says: Texting while driving is a bad idea in any state, but expect to really get socked with penalties in Alaska, Utah, Maine, Wisconsin and New York.