Rhode Island’s Cellphone-Use and Texting-While-Driving Laws

Read about Rhode Island’s distracted driving laws and the consequences of a violation.

Generally, text messaging while driving is prohibited in Rhode Island. And starting in June 2018, all other handheld device use while driving will also be banned.

Text Messaging

Rhode Island’s distracted driving law prohibits operating a vehicle while using any wireless communication device (including cellphones and tablets) to compose, read, or send a text message.

Exceptions. Rhode Island’s text messaging ban has several exceptions. The law doesn’t apply to:

  • on duty emergency services professionals, including law enforcement, fire safety personnel, and emergency medical personnel
  • drivers who use a wireless device to contact an emergency services professional, or
  • drivers who are parked and out of the flow of traffic.

Penalties. For a first texting-while-driving violation the motorist is looking a fine of up to $100 and/or a maximum 30-day license suspension. A second offense carries a maximum $150 fine and/or a license suspension of up to three months. And anyone convicted of a third texting violation faces up to $250 in fines and a maximum six-month license suspension.

(31 R.I. Gen. Laws Ann. § 31-22-30 (2017).)

Talking on a Cellphone

Beginning June 1, 2018, Rhode Island law will prohibit operating a vehicle while using a handheld wireless communication device (including cellphones and tablets) to “engage in a call while such vehicle is in motion.” For purposes of the law, “engage in a call” means talking into or listening to but doesn’t include activating, deactivating, or initiating a function of the device.

Exceptions. There are several exceptions to Rhode Island’s cellphone. The law doesn’t apply to:

  • on-duty peace officers, firefighters, ambulance and emergency vehicle drivers, taxi drivers, public utility workers, or truck and bus drivers without passengers
  • drivers who use a handheld device in an emergency situation to call an emergency response operator, hospital, physician, health clinic, ambulance company, police department, fire department, or public utility company, or
  • drivers who use a hands-free device.

Penalties. Motorists who get caught talking on their cellphone while driving face up to $100 in fines. However, the fine is suspended (meaning you don’t have to pay it) for first offenders who show proof of acquiring a hands-free accessory subsequent to the violation and prior to the imposition of the fine.

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