Title 31
Motor and Other Vehicles

Chapter 22
Miscellaneous Rules

R.I. Gen. Laws § 31-22-30

§ 31-22-30. Text messaging while operating a motor vehicle.

(a) For purposes of this section, the following terms shall have the following meanings:

(1) “Driving” means operating a motor vehicle on a public road, including operation while temporarily stationary because of traffic, a traffic light or stop sign, or otherwise, but does not include operating a motor vehicle when the vehicle has pulled over to the side of, or off, an active roadway and has stopped in a location where it can safely remain stationary.

(2) “Hands free” means the manner in which a wireless handset is operated for the purpose of composing, reading, or sending text messages by using an internal feature or function, or through an attachment or addition, including, but not limited to, an earpiece, headset, remote microphone, or short-range wireless connection, thereby allowing the user to operate said device without the use of hands, except to activate, deactivate, or initiate a feature or function thereof.

(3) “Inoperability” means a motor vehicle that is incapable of being operated or being operated in a safe and prudent manner due to mechanical failure, including, but not limited to, engine overheating or tire failure.

(4) “Motor vehicle” means any vehicle that is self-propelled by a motor, including, but not limited to: automobiles, trucks, vans, construction vehicles, etc.

(5) “Person” means any natural person, corporation, unincorporated association, firm, partnership, joint venture, joint stock association, or other entity or business organization of any kind.

(6) “Personal wireless communication device” means a hand-held device through which personal wireless services (commercial mobile services, unlicensed wireless services, and common carrier wireless exchange access services) are transmitted, but does not include a global navigation satellite receiver used for positioning, emergency notification, or navigation purposes.

(7) “Stopped” means not in motion.

(8) “Text message,” also referred to as short messaging service (SMS), means the process by which users send, read, or receive messages on a wireless handset, including text messages, instant messages, electronic messages, or e-mails, in order to communicate with any person or device.

(9) “Use” means to operate a wireless handset or a personal wireless communication device in a manner not consistent with hands-free operation.

(10) “Wireless handset” means a portable electronic or computing device, including cellular telephones and personal digital assistants (PDAs), capable of transmitting data in the form of a text message.

(b) No person shall use a wireless handset or personal wireless communication device to compose, read, or send text messages while driving a motor vehicle on any public street or public highway within the state of Rhode Island.

(c) Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection (b), this section shall not be construed to prohibit the use of any wireless handset or personal wireless communication device by:

(1) Any law enforcement, public safety or police officers, emergency services officials, first aid, emergency medical technicians and personnel, and fire safety officials in the performance of duties arising out of, and in the course of, their employment as such;

(2) A person using a wireless handset to contact an individual listed in subsection (c)(1);

(3) A person using a wireless handset or personal wireless communication device inside a motor vehicle while such motor vehicle is parked, standing, or stopped and is removed from the flow of traffic, in accordance with applicable laws, rules, or ordinances, or is stopped due to the inoperability of such motor vehicle; or

(4) A person activating, viewing, or deactivating a global positioning or navigation device or a global positioning or navigation application.

(d) Nothing in this section shall be construed to prohibit a person driving a motor vehicle from utilizing a hands-free wireless handset.

The nonemergency use by pilot/escort vehicle drivers of portable electronic devices is prohibited.

(e) Any person who violates any of the provisions of this section shall, upon conviction, be subject to a fine of one hundred dollars ($100), or a license suspension for up to thirty (30) days, or both; for a second conviction a person shall be subject to a fine of one hundred fifty dollars ($150), or a license suspension for up to three (3) months, or both; and for a third or subsequent conviction a person shall be subject to a fine of two hundred fifty dollars ($250), or a license suspension for up to six (6) months, or both. All violations arising out of this section shall be heard in the Rhode Island traffic tribunal.

History of Section.
P.L. 2009, ch. 213, § 1; P.L. 2009, ch. 214, § 1; P.L. 2013, ch. 291, § 1; P.L. 2013, ch. 393, § 1; P.L. 2014, ch. 155, § 1; P.L. 2014, ch. 167, § 1; P.L. 2014, ch. 256, § 1; P.L. 2014, ch. 313, § 1; P.L. 2015, ch. 75, § 1; P.L. 2015, ch. 87, § 1; P.L. 2017, ch. 460, § 1; P.L. 2017, ch. 462, § 1; P.L. 2019, ch. 34, § 1; P.L. 2019, ch. 35, § 1.