Safety Laws in Washington DC

Cell Phones and Texting

Anyone driving through D.C. may only use hands-free cell phones. However, if it's an emergency situation (such as to call law enforcement), a conventional cell phone may be used.

Drivers with learner's permits and school bus drivers may not use any sort of cell phone while driving, unless it's for an emergency situation.

All drivers, regardless of license status, are banned from texting while behind the wheel.


You must turn on your headlights when driving anytime just after sunset until just before sunrise, as well as whenever you can't clearly see 500 ft ahead of your vehicle.

High beams can't be used within 500 ft of approaching traffic, or when within 300 ft of following a vehicle traveling in your direction.

If you are riding a motorcycle, you should turn on your headlights both during the day and at night.

For more information on headlight usage in Washington D.C., read the driving manual.

Seat Belts

Everyone riding in a vehicle must wear a seat belt or be contained by an appropriate safety system.

A law enforcement officer may pull a vehicle over solely because someone inside the vehicle isn't wearing a seat belt. If you're driving a vehicle, you're responsible for ensuring that all passengers are wearing a seat belt. If they're not, you could be hit with a $50 fine and have 2 points applied to your license.

Although it's not required, children under 12 years old should ride in the rear seat of the vehicle.

Child Car Seat Laws

Passengers under 3 years old must be properly secured in an approved child safety seat located in the rear seat of the vehicle.

Before you purchase a child safety seat, be sure it is suitable for your child's height, weight and age.

Unattended Children

Although the district doesn't have any specific laws pertaining to leaving children unattended in a vehicle, anyone who knowingly or intentionally engages in conduct that places the health of a child in serious risk can be charged with an offense.

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