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Texting while Driving Penalties Harshest in Alaska, Weakest in Virginia

don't text and drive (select to view enlarged photo)

RANCHO CUCAMONGA, CA--April 16, 2013: What could set you back more than $10,000, put you in prison for up to a year, cause you to drive the length of an entire football field basically blindfolded, and increase your insurance rates by around 10 percent in some states? Using your phone to read and send text messages while driving.

But in some states, the penalties for using your phone while driving are much more serious than in others. In a new study looking at statewide texting-while-driving bans, Online Auto Insurance ranks the five harshest and five weakest statewide penalties for shooting off a text from behind the wheel.

According to the study, the following states had the harshest and weakest maximum penalties for a first offense:


  1. Alaska
  2. Utah
  3. Maine
  4. Wisconsin
  5. New York


  1. Virginia
  2. Iowa
  3. Indiana
  4. Delaware
  5. Pennsylvania

Where a state landed in the rankings depended on the fine size, possible jail time, enforcement guidelines, and whether a texting violation is considered a moving violation that will add points to a driver's record.

The harshest statewide ban was in Alaska, where the maximum penalty for a first offense is a $10,000 fine and a one-year prison sentence if the incident wasn't related to an accident with injuries. The weakest ban was in Virginia, where a fine for texting while driving is currently only $20.

For details on the harshest and weakest state texting laws and a table showing texting penalties in every state, go to Online Auto Insurance, click the "Research" link at the top of the page, and click through to the "States with the Harshest and Weakest Penalties for Texting while Driving" study page.

The study was conducted to highlight Distracted Driving Awareness Month. Online Auto Insurance has other informative resources for consumers and the media to better understand the safety and economic angles of what has become a dangerous habit for Americans on the road. Readers interested in learning more should read our article on whether a texting ticket can raise your car insurance rates and check out our texting-while-driving infographic with startling stats on the dangers and prevalence of texting from behind the wheel.