Photo Courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Depending on the state you’re driving in, you could pay up to a $10,000 fine and spend a year in prison if caught using your cell phone while driving. According to a study released last Tuesday by Online Auto Insurance, “Texting while driving has become an epidemic in America that has led 39 states and the District of Columbia to ban all drivers from engaging in the practice.”

The strictest state, based on the Online Auto Insurance results, is Alaska where you can serve up to a year in jail and pay a fine up to $10,000. Utah has the second harshest penalty for drivers who use their cell phones while driving. In Utah, a driver caught texting can face a fine of $750 plus serve a 90-day sentence in prison.  Tweeting while driving through Maine will cost you between $250 and $500. Driving and checking Facebook in Wisconsin can cost you as much as as $400. In addition, you will have four demerit points tacked onto your license, which may lead your insurer to increase your payments. New York adds three points along with a fine of $235 to the driver’s license if caught reading a text while driving.

Virginia, Iowa, Indiana, Delaware and Pennsylvania are among the states that have the weakest penalties based on the Online Auto Insurance study. The fines there vary from $20 to $50, though local laws in these states could tack on penalties or higher fines. A complete list of penalties by state is located in the study results. If a driver gets into an accident or causes serious injury to anyone while using their phone and driving in any state, the maximum penalty increases and the driver can face felony charges.

In an interview with USA Today, John Ulczycki of the National Safety Council says, “Texting while driving is not just a teen problem. … You’re looking at around 10 million teen drivers, but about 180 million other adult drivers.”

The Huffington Post has found some apps available on smartphones to stop texting or looking at your cell phone while driving. reads emails and text messages out loud so the driver doesn’t have to look at his/her phone, but they can still keep up-to-date on incoming messages. For those drivers who have a tendency to look at their phone when an alert goes off, the Huffington Post says Driveoff, iZUP and Textecution apps all lock the phone when it detects that the phone is moving more than 10 mph. It will also stop all incoming phone calls. Similar apps, like DriveMode and tXtBlocker, will identify when the phone is moving faster than 25 mph and automatically respond to incoming texts or calls with a standard message saying that the person is driving and they cannot respond right now.  

Some of the apps mentioned require a purchase or monthly payment. If that is too much money for you or you don’t have a smartphone, the Huffington Post recommends putting your phone on airplane mode before driving. It will block incoming texts and emails until you turn off the mode on your phone.

In the end, ignoring incoming messages, sending text messages, surfing the web and looking on Facebook or Twitter while driving will not only help you avoid accidents, but it could also help you avoid a hefty fine.

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