Connecticut Cellphone-Use & Texting-While-Driving Laws

Read about Connecticut’s distracted driving laws and the costs of a violation.

With certain exceptions, Connecticut’s distracted driving law bans all cellphone and wireless device use—including texting—while driving. This article discussed the specifics of what the law prohibits and the costs and other consequences of a violation.

Talking on a Cellphone

Connecticut law prohibits all motorists from using a cellphone to engage in a call while operating a vehicle except when used in hands-free mode.

Engage in a call. For purposes of the distracted driving law, a person “engages in a call” by using at least one hand to hold a cellphone in the immediate vicinity of the person’s ear and talking into or listening to the phone. Holding a cellphone in the immediate vicinity of the ear leads to a legal presumption that the person was engaged in a call. A driver can rebut the presumption by proving otherwise.

Operating a vehicle. The distracted driving law’s restrictions apply not only to motorists with their vehicles in motion but also to motorists temporarily stopped because of traffic, road conditions, a stop sign, or traffic control signal. However, motorists who are parked in a safe place to the side of or on the shoulder of the road are free to text or talk on the phone.

Exceptions. Connecticut’s distracted driving law contains a number of exceptions. These include:

  • cellphone communications with emergency personnel in an emergency
  • police, firefighters, emergency vehicle operators, and U.S. military personnel communicating within the scope of their official duties, and
  • persons using hands-free cellphones or phones with hands-free technology.

However, the hands-free exception doesn’t apply to school bus drivers and drivers who are under the age of 18.

Texting and Other Uses of Wireless Devices

Connecticut’s distracted driving law prohibits using any mobile electronic device while operating a vehicle.

Mobile electronic devices. The distracted driving law defines “mobile electronic device” as any handheld or portable electronic equipment capable of data communication between two or more people. This definition includes text messaging devices, pagers, personal digital assistants, laptop computers, and video game consoles. Emergency assistance and navigation systems are not considered mobile electronic devices for purposes of the distracted driving law.

Device use. For mobile electronic devices, the distracted driving law doesn’t say what it means to “use” the device. So, presumably, the law restricts all types of device use, including texting.

Exceptions. The electronic device ban doesn’t apply to police, firefighters, emergency vehicle operators, and U.S. military personnel communicating within the scope of their official duties.

Other Distracting Activities

Connecticut law also specifies that drivers cannot engage in any activity while driving that interferes with the safe operation of the vehicle. This catch-all provision could apply to drivers who are putting on makeup, reading a newspaper, eating, or doing any other activity that distracts from driving in a safe manner.

Penalties for Violations

The fines for distracted driving violations are:

  • $150 for a first violation
  • $300 for a second violation, and
  • $500 for a third or subsequent violation.

Distracted driving convictions also add demerit points to the motorist’s driving record. Accumulating too many points leads to license suspension.

Depending on the circumstances, a distracted driving violation could also lead to a reckless driving conviction. And if a distracted driving offense results in the death of another person, negligent homicide charges are a possibility.

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