The LoDown on the new Rhode Island hands-free law.

Heads up!

The new Rhode Island hands-free law while you drive goes into effect June 1st.

Keeping the spendy gym membership you don’t use. Buying the new lotion on display at the drugstore when you have three half-full bottles at home. Getting that “live, laugh, love” tattoo on spring break.

Like all of the above, using your phone while driving is one of those “things we know probably aren’t the best idea, but we do sometimes anyway.”

Well, now Ocean Staters have extra incentive to leave our phones alone while we drive, with the Rhode Island hands-free law going into effect. What’s the headline?


Starting June 1, it will be illegal to have your phone in your hand while driving.


We wanted to give you a heads up and a little extra info so you know what’s up and how it works starting June 1st. For context, we’re not alone. Rhode Island joins 15 other states with this law that falls into the strictest category, where drivers of all ages are not allowed to use cell phones. (In some states, cell phone laws only apply to novice drivers, or there’s a texting ban, but you can use your phone for other purposes).

Note, in case you didn’t already know, and you drive outside Rhode Island often, Connecticut and New York also have hand-held and texting bans, whereas the law in Massachusetts does not cover hand-held, just texting for everyone. See the full list of state laws.

The Rhode Island hands-free law also goes in the category of “primary enforcement,” which means that you do not have to be speeding or committing another violation to get pulled over. You can get a $100 ticket simply for having your phone in your hand. (Bluetooth or voice control with a mount are still OK under the new law.)

Rhode Island’s law — like those in 46 other states — bans texting for all drivers. And if you’re a school bus driver (Hey, Ms. Frizzle), you can’t use your phone (Bluetooth or not) at all.

So you may be wondering, “But if I get a ticket for this, can I appeal it, or go to traffic school like with a speeding ticket?” The answer is that if you go to court, you can bring a receipt for a hands-free device to get your first ticket dismissed.


Still on the fence?

If you somehow are still on the fence about whether hands-free laws are a good idea, here are a few facts which prompted us to keep our phones in our bags:

  • There are three categories of distracted driving: manual (where your hands are off the wheel); visual (eyes looking elsewhere), and cognitive (mind someplace else). Using your phone is all three!
  • Distracted driving is creeping up on DUIs as one of the most dangerous activities behind the wheel.
  • In the 3-5 seconds it takes to check a text, on the highway, your car will go the length of a football field.
  • One out of every ten fatal crashes are due to distracted driving.


We believe in your best self and the smart choices you make. So, enjoy the ride, HiRoaders, and let’s keep the smart in how we use smartphones.


Types of distracted driving.
Distracted driving increasing compared to DUI.
Distance your car goes at 60 mph.
Percentage of crashes due to distracted driving.