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25 Distracted Driving Statistics [2021]

Cell phones, navigation technology, enhanced infotainment systems, and more have captured the attention of drivers nationwide. While these technological advancements have made traveling more convenient, they’ve also made it more dangerous by adding distractions for drivers.

More than 90% of car crashes on U.S. roadways involve human error, and the likelihood of error multiplies when drivers divert their attention from the road. Multitasking or daydreaming behind the wheel can have deadly consequences.

Although most drivers already know the dangers of distracted driving, there were still 400,000 injuries and 2,841 deaths on U.S. roadways as a result of this infraction in 2018. If you are involved in a distracted driving accident, consider speaking to an attorney to learn about your rights.

Below, we walk through distracted driving statistics, covering everything from texting and driving laws to annual distracted driving fatalities.

What is Distracted Driving?

Distracted driving is the act of doing anything that takes your attention away from the road while operating a vehicle. Multitasking is a common form of distraction, as many drivers send text messages, talk on the phone, or even eat at the wheel while driving. Communicating with other passengers is also a form of distraction, and children are four times more likely to distract drivers than adult passengers.

You might think you have time to send a quick email at a stoplight, but any sort of distraction can compromise your safety, as well as the safety of your passengers and other drivers on the road.

Types of Distracted Driving

The CDC classifies distracted driving under three main categories. Many actions, such as text messaging, are particularly dangerous because they combine multiple categories of distraction.

  1. Visual: Actions that take your eyes off the road.
  2. Manual: Movement that takes your hands off the wheel.
  3. Cognitive: Thoughts that take your focus off driving.
Chart showing what qualifies as distracted driving

Distracted Driving Facts

Distracted driving is a major concern on U.S. roadways as taking your eyes or mind off the road for just a few seconds can cause a collision. Distracted driving can also be hard to prove, meaning that many of these incidents go underreported. Here’s what we do know about distracted driving.

  • In 2017, about 481,000 drivers were handling cell phones or other electronic devices while driving in the U.S. at any given moment during daylight hours. (NHTSA).

    KTSM
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  • Removing eyes from the road for just two seconds doubles the risk of a crash.

    AAA
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  • 87% of rear-end collisions involve some form of distracted driving.

    NHTSA
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  • 88% of drivers believe that distracted driving is on the rise.

    AAA
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  • 2,841 people were killed and an estimated 400,000 were injured by distracted driving in 2018.

    NHTSA
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  • Distracted driving was responsible for 14% of all police-reported motor vehicle traffic crashes in 2018.

    NHTSA
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  • 39% of Americans admitted to shopping on their mobile devices while driving.

    Root Insurance
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  • Programming navigation is the most distracting task on an infotainment system, taking an average of 40 seconds for drivers to complete.

    AAA
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  • New vehicle infotainment systems cause an increase in distracted driving on the road.

    AAA
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Distracted Driving Fatalities

Distracted driving claims thousands of lives in the U.S. each year. Inattentive drivers or those trying to multitask endanger the lives of fellow passengers, other drivers, and nearby pedestrians. Here are some tragic stats about distracted driving fatalities.

  • From 2010-2018, an average of 3,000 were killed every year by distracted driving.

    CDC
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  • Every day, 9 people in the U.S. die from distracted driving.

    DMV
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  • 8% of all fatal crashes in 2018 were reported as distracted driving related.

    NHTSA
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  • About 1 in 5 people involved in distracted driving fatalities in 2018 were walking, riding their bikes, or otherwise outside a vehicle.

    CDC
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Teen Distracted Driving Statistics

The newest drivers on the road are also the most prone to distractions. Some studies have shown that distracted driving may be involved in more than half of teen traffic accidents. Here are some additional facts about teens and distracted driving.

  • Teen drivers aged 15 to 19 were most likely to be involved in fatal distracted driving crashes.

    NHTSA
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  • In 2019, 39% of high school students texted or emailed while driving at least once over a 30 day period.

    CDC
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  • White students (44%) are more likely to drive distracted than black (30%) or Hispanic students (35%).

    CDC
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  • Handheld cell phone use continues to be highest among drivers aged 16 to 24.

    FCC
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  • After analyzing dash-cam videos, the AAA Foundation found that distraction was involved in 58% of teen crashes — approximately four times as many as federal estimates.

    AAA
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Texting and Driving Statistics

Modern technology makes traveling more convenient, but not safer. Everything from GPS navigation to loud music can be a distraction on the road. Sending or reading text messages while driving takes a driver’s mind, eyes, and hands away from vehicle operation, making this an especially dangerous activity to do behind the wheel. Here’s what to know about texting and driving.

  • Texting while driving is 6x more dangerous than intoxicated driving.

    NHTSA
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  • 86% of people report that they would feel very unsafe in a car with a driver who was texting or emailing while driving.

    NHTSA
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  • On average, drivers take their eyes off the road for 5 seconds when sending a text message. At 55 MPH, that’s equivalent to driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed.

    NHTSA
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  • Texting more than doubles your chances of getting in an accident while driving.

    AAA Foundation
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  • Sending and receiving texts while driving contributes to a 400% increase in time spent with eyes off the road.

    AMA
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Texting and Driving Laws

Texting while driving is more dangerous than driving drunk, which is why nearly every state has passed laws prohibiting texting while operating a vehicle. Here’s what to know about texting and driving laws across the U.S.

  • Currently, 48 states, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands ban text messaging for all drivers.

    GHSA
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  • Montana is the only U.S. state with no texting or cell phone laws.

    GHSA
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Map showing cell phone use laws by state

How to Drive Distraction-Free

Sometimes distractions are out of your control, but your response can make all the difference. Here are some tips for defensive, distraction-free driving.

  1. Stow your phone: If you can\’t resist responding to text messages and calls as they come through, then put your phone out of reach to avoid the temptation while driving. Your glovebox is the perfect place
  2. Appoint a designated texter: Passengers can actually help you avoid distractions. Delegate responsibilities such as texting and navigation to a passenger before you rev up your engine.
  3. Keep your speaker volume low: Loud music is a cognitive distraction, so keep your speaker volume low in order to focus on the road. Your speaker volume should always be set at a level that allows you to gather auditory information from outside the vehicle, such as a car horn or ambulance.
  4. Be a good role model on the road: If you have children or teens in the car, remember that they’ll be watching you drive. Teach them good habits by keeping the phone out of reach and your eyes and focus on the road ahead.
  5. Download apps to become a safer driver: There are apps to help you avoid distractions from your mobile phone. The apps monitor your speed and silence alerts on your phone when you’re in motion. Many still allow you to listen to music and use navigation, but block incoming calls and texts. Some apps can even send auto-replies.

Distracted driving is dangerous, and teen drivers on the roads pose the biggest risk. Also, most crashes involving distracted driving are completely avoidable. If you’ve been injured in a crash where distracted driving was a factor, consider speaking with legal representation to decide what to do next.