Is It Illegal to Take a Selfie Photo While Driving a Car?

Taking selfie photos has become an immensely popular activity — especially with the ability to take one with a cell phone and then share it on social media sites such as Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook. Some people even take a selfie while driving a car. However, is it illegal to do this?

Why do people take selfie photos?

Person taking a selfie photo with a cell phone while driving a car, highlighting whether or not it's illegal
Driver taking a selfie photo | Angelo Pantazis via Unsplash

Many people take selfie photos, but why? Despite their popularity, selfies often have a negative connotation — perceived as selfish, vain, and narcissistic. As detailed by Psychology Today, a research study asked participants about their motives for taking selfies. Narcissism was the most common reason, but there are some other reasons with less negative connotations.

Reasons for taking selfie photos include:

  • Narcissism (29.5%)
  • Sharing and connecting (23.3%)
  • Function use, such as for a job: (22.8%)
  • Self-esteem boosting (15.5%)
  • Documenting memories (5.7%)
  • Conformity or following what peers do (3.1%)

Taking selfies while driving is illegal in states that have distracted driving laws

Person taking a selfie photo in the side-view mirror while driving a car, highlighting whether or not it's illegal
Driver taking a selfie photo | Andre Tan via Unsplash

Taking a selfie photo is illegal for states that have distracted driving laws or restrictions on drivers for cell phone use in a car. In the wake of many car accidents as a result of texting and doing other activities on a cell phone while driving, states enacted distracted driving laws.

States that have distracted driving laws in which it’s illegal to use a hand-held cell phone for all drivers include Arizona, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia. Also, Washington, D.C., Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands prohibit the use of hand-held cell phones for all drivers. Additionally, for newer drivers, 36 states and Washington, D.C. have cell phone bans. 

However, cell phone use is legal when using hands-free technology or if the phone is in a stationary holder in a car, as detailed by Traffic Ticket Attorneys. This typically would not apply to snapping selfies, though, unless you took the measure of custom-mounting a stationary holder on the dashboard above the steering wheel.

Why is taking selfie photos while driving so dangerous?

RELATED: Is Jaywalking Across a Street Still a Crime?

Taking a selfie photo while driving is very dangerous. It might be even more dangerous than texting while driving — due to the sustained attention needed to do it. Driving requires a great deal of concentration, and snapping a selfie takes your attention off the road, which can lead to injury or death from a car accident. 

Taking your attention away from driving, even for a short time, can have catastrophic consequences. Only a few seconds of distracted driving can cause a serious car crash. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in the United States, “over 3,100 people were killed, and about 424,000 were injured in crashes involving a distracted driver in 2019.”

The CDC lists three main types of distracted driving. All three of these apply to taking selfies:

  • Visual distraction: You take your eyes off the road.
  • Manual distraction: You take your hands off the steering wheel.
  • Cognitive distraction: The distraction takes your mind off driving.

Even if it’s not illegal in your state to take a selfie photo while driving, you shouldn’t do it, for by doing so, you put yourself and your passengers at risk of injury or death. There are plenty of other opportunities for selfie-taking. And if you truly feel the urge to take a selfie while on your journey, then pull your car over to the side of the road.

RELATED: Is It Illegal to Stick Your Head out of a Car Window or Sunroof?