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 and all other handheld device use while driving is prohibited in Rhode Island. This article covers the specifics of Rhode Island's distracted driving laws, including the penalties for a cellphone or texting ticket.

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.

Talking on a Cellphone

Rhode Island law also prohibits 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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