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What Are Vermont's Distracted Driving Laws, Anyway?

Angela Evancie
Texting and driving is illegal, right? Right. But with some exceptions, Vermont adults can talk on the phone while they drive.

Nearly six out of every 10 Vermont high school seniors text while driving, according to a recent survey, and lawmakers, parents and public safety experts have again taken up the issue of distracted driving.

Gov. Peter Shumlin said he doesn’t support more restrictive laws on cell phone use by adult drivers, but some lawmakers want just that.

Since 2001, there have been 25 bills to limit the use of cell phones and other electronics while driving, but few have passed into law. Today, Vermont is one of 38 states that still allow most drivers to use a handheld cell phone while driving, but there are some limits.

As officials discuss these policies, we at VPR had some questions about the nuanced laws around distracted driving in Vermont, so we decided to find the answers:

Texting and driving is illegal, right?

Right. In June 2010, the most comprehensive law on the subject went into effect, banning all texting or text-based messaging for all drivers. First-time violators are faced with a $100 - $200 fine and two points on their license. For violations in the first two years after a first offense, fines range from $250 - $500 and five points.

What about talking on the phone, or picking a new song on my iPod?

With some exceptions, adult drivers are allowed to do both, but the same law that banned texting also made it illegal for drivers under the age of 18 to use any handheld electronics while they drive. Teen drivers caught texting while driving are subject to the same fines and point penalties with the added consequence of a 30-day license suspension.

What are the exceptions for adult drivers?

Work zones. Anyone using a handheld electronic device in a designated work zone is subject to the same consequences as if they were texting. Hands free devices, such as Bluetooth headsets, are allowed.

So teens just can’t use electronics while driving?

Pretty much. Cell phones, MP3 players and other handheld electronics are prohibited for the young drivers – even if they’re hands free. Teen drivers caught using a cell phone or other portable electronic device (and not texting) are subject to a $100 fine and two points.

Taylor was VPR's digital reporter from 2013 until 2017. After growing up in Vermont, he graduated with at BA in Journalism from Northeastern University in 2013.
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