Washington D.C.’s Cell Phone-Use & Texting-While-Driving Laws

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

Washington D.C.'s distracted driving laws contain cell phone and text-messaging restrictions that apply to all drivers. This article gives an overview of specifically what the laws prohibit and the penalties you'll face for a texting or cell phone ticket in the District of Columbia.

D.C.'s Texting and Cell Phone Restrictions for All Drivers

In Washington D.C., it's illegal for all motorists to use a cell phone or other electronic device that's not equipped with a hands-free accessory while operating a moving vehicle.

Cell phone and electronic device use. For purposes of the distracted driving laws, "use" means:

  • talking on the phone or placing or receiving a call, or
  • using a device to compose, send, receive, or read a written message or image using a text-based communication system.

Hands-free accessories. A "hands-free accessory" doesn't necessarily need to be an accessory that's apart from the phone itself. Using any technology—whether an add-on or a built-in feature—that allows the driver to keep both hands on the wheel is permissible.

Exceptions. The distracted driving laws don't apply to:

  • emergency use of a cell phone, including calls to 9-1-1, 3-1-1, a hospital, an ambulance service provider, or law enforcement
  • use of a cell phone by law enforcement or other emergency service providers in the performance of official duties, or
  • initiating or terminating a call or turning on or off a cell phone.

D.C.'s Distracted Driving Restrictions for School Bus Drivers and Drivers With Learner's Permits

School bus drivers and drivers with learner's permits are entirely banned from texting and cell phone use while operating a vehicle that's in motion—regardless of whether they use hands-free accessories. The only exception for these drivers is using a cell phone to make an emergency call.

Penalties for Distracted Driving Violations in Washington D.C.

For most distracted driving tickets, the driver is looking at a $100 fine. However, first offenders can avoid having to pay the fine by providing proof of acquiring a hands-free accessory.

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