Distracted Driving, Cell Phones, Texting and Car Crashes

Using a cellphone for texting, reading and interacting while driving is risky and can lead to car crashes.

Driver Cell Phone Statistics

Note: These are the most recent statistics available

  • The National Safety Council reports that cell phone use while driving leads to 1.6 million crashes each year.young teenager man texting and driving distracted
  • Nearly 330,000 injuries occur each year from accidents caused by texting while driving.
  • 1 out of every 4 car accidents in the United States is caused by texting and driving.
  • Texting while driving is 6x more likely to cause an accident than driving drunk.
  • Answering a text takes away your attention for about five seconds. Traveling at 55 mph, that’s enough time to travel the length of a football field.
  • Texting while driving causes a 400% increase in time spent with eyes off the road.
  • Of all cell phone related tasks, texting is by far the most dangerous activity.
  • 94% of drivers support a ban on texting while driving.
  • 74% of drivers support a ban on hand-held cell phone use.
Teenager texting and driving car hitting pedestrian and car crash

“An irresponsible texting teenage driver is about to run over a pedestrian at an intersection which shows how dangerous texting and driving is. Stop the text and stop the wrecks and car crashes.”

Making or taking calls, texting, or interacting with an electronic device in any way can take your eyes off the road at a critical moment. Teenage drivers may be especially susceptible to distractions. In response, states have enacted cellphone and texting bans, and insurers along with other groups have sponsored public education campaigns. Even though studies show that phone use by drivers has declined in states with bans, crashes reported to insurers haven’t gone down during the same period. While phoning and texting have become synonymous with distracted driving in the news, distraction is a much larger problem than just electronic devices. A new study by IIHS in partnership with Virginia Tech helps clarify the risk of cellphone use behind the wheel and offers insight into other distracting things drivers do when they aren’t using cellphones. The research points to the need for a broader strategy to deal with the ways that drivers can be distracted.

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Teen Driver Cell Phone Statistics

  • 11 teens die every day as a result of texting while driving.
  • According to a AAA poll, 94% of teen drivers acknowledge the dangers of texting and driving, but 35% admitted to doing it anyway.
  • 21% of teen drivers involved in fatal accidents were distracted by their cell phones.
  • Teen drivers are 4x more likely than adults to get into car crashes or near-crashes when talking or texting on a cell phone.
  • A teen driver with only one additional passenger doubles the risk of getting into a fatal car accident. With two or more passengers, they are 5x as likely.

U.S. Cell Phone and Driving Statistics

  • In 2013, 3,154 people were killed in distraction-related crashes.
  • About 424,000 people were injured in crashes involving a distracted driver.
  • In 2013, 10% of all drivers ages 15 to 19 involved in fatal accidents were reported to be distracted at the time of the crash.

2012 U.S. Cell Phone and Driving Statistics

  • In 2012, 3,328 people were killed in distraction-related crashes.
  • About 421,000 people were injured in crashes involving a distracted driver.
  • In 2012, 11% of drivers under age 20 involved in fatal accidents were reported to be distracted at the time of the crash.
  • One-fourth of teenagers respond to at least one text message every time they drive and 20% of teens and 10% of parents report having multi-text message conversations while driving.

National Survey on Distracted Driving Attitudes and Behaviors

  • Nearly half (48%) of drivers admit to answering their cell phones while driving.
  • Of those who answered their phones while driving, 58% of drivers continued to drive while talking on the phone.
  • In the survey, 24% of drivers reported that they are willing to make a phone call while driving.
  • One in 10 drivers surveyed said that, at least sometimes, they send text messages or emails while driving.
  • Of the drivers surveyed, 14% said they read text messages or emails while driving.
  • A majority of respondents supported laws that banned talking on cell phones, texting, or emailing while driving.

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Texting Pedestrian Study

distracted teenager texting and walking

Researchers from the University of Washington monitored 20 of Seattle’s busiest intersections and observed the following:

  • Pedestrians who text are 4x less likely to look before crossing the street, cross in crosswalks, or obey traffic signals.
  • They also found that texting pedestrians take an average of two seconds longer to cross the street.

Keep your eyes on the road” is a basic tenet of driving, and it goes without saying that anything that diverts a driver’s attention could lead to a crash. As cellphones have surged in popularity, concerns have been raised about the safety implications of using them behind the wheel, and early studies linked talking on a cellphone directly to increased crash risk. Surprisingly, though, this apparent safety risk hasn’t translated into higher crash rates. In fact, crashes reported to police and insurers have declined as cellphones and other electronic devices have proliferated.

Frequent Cellphone Users Cause Near Misses or Crashes

New research by the Institute and the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) examined how drivers’ near-crash and crash risk changes as their cellphone usage patterns change and how cellphone use fits in with other driver behavior and affects attention to the road. The research confirms that frequent cellphone users have more near misses or crashes. However, a new finding is that individual drivers’ overall near-crash or crash rates don’t increase the more they use their phones. That may be because drivers tend to do other things that take their eyes or minds off the road when they aren’t engaged in phone conversations. There’s also evidence that drivers compensate for the distraction of using cellphones, for example, by making calls while stopped or during less-demanding driving situations.

Though wireless phone use continues to climb among the general population, hand-held phone use by drivers appears to be leveling off. After doubling to 6 percent between 2000 and 2005, the percentage of drivers observed talking on hand-held phones while stopped at intersections has stood at 5-6 percent since then, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates. Texting still appears to be on the rise. The percentage of drivers texting or visibly manipulating hand-held devices was 1.5 percent in 2012, up a fraction from 1.3 percent in 2011 but sharply higher than the 0.2 percent observed in 2005. Texting in 2012 was highest among 16-24 year-olds, at 3 percent.

At the same time, U.S. crash deaths have fallen sharply since 2006, and overall crashes reported to police and insurers have dropped, too.

This doesn’t mean phone use behind the wheel is harmless. Numerous experimental studies have shown that talking on a cellphone reduces a driver’s reaction time, potentially increasing crash risk. Cellphone use also affects how drivers scan and process information from the roadway. The cognitive distractions associated with cellphone use can lead to so-called inattention blindness in which drivers fail to comprehend or process information from objects in the road even if they are looking at them. Studies also have found negative effects of texting on driving performance.

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