Distracted Driving / Texting and Driving Statistics

Distracted driving is an ongoing problem in the U.S. causing thousands of injuries and deaths. It’s not a teenage only problem. Adults and teens alike use cell phones while driving to either make a phone call, send a text or check their favorite website. Despite many states adopting laws that ban hand-held and hands-free use, many drivers continue to text and talk while driving. This issue is a growing concern for personal injury attorneys who represent people injured by distracted drivers.

This page contains statistics from the most currently available data on behind the wheel cell phone use – both hand-held and hands-free devices. We will update this page as new studies come out.

National Statistics on Cell Phone Use While Driving

660,000 people use cell phones while driving at any given moment. (Tweet this)
Majority of people support a ban on texting while driving, even though half of them do it anyway. (Tweet this)
Drivers who text while driving are 23 times more likely to crash. (Tweet this)
Drivers who talk while driving are 4 times more likely to get in an accident. (Tweet this)
Young distracted driver’s reaction time slows to that of an elderly driver. (Tweet this)
Average time to answer a text is 4.6 seconds, while driving at 55 mph it’s enough time to cover a football field. (Tweet this)
There is no real increase in safety by using hands-free devices while driving. (Tweet this)
Brain activity typically associated with driving is reduced by 37% with cell phone use behind the wheel. (Tweet this)

According to Distraction.gov, a Department of Transportation backed website to promote awareness of the dangers of distracted driving, as many as 660,000 drivers are using a cell phone at any given moment. To put it in perspective, that’s more people than the entire population of Washington D.C.

Most of the people who admit to texting and driving will most likely express strong ability in driving while sending and reading texts. However, statistics show that a person who is texting while driving is 23 times more likely to crash.

Talking on the phone is also risky. A study by Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) stated that people who talk on the phone while driving are 4 times more likely to be involved in an accident.

College student dies mid-text, parents publish photo of his last message.

It’s easy to see how distracted drivers put themselves at higher risk for accidents considering that their reaction times fall significantly when they are not paying full attention to the road. Talking on the phone while driving can make even the snappiest young mind act as slow as that of a 70 year-old individual.

What seems like an innocent few seconds to answer a text on average lasts 4.6 seconds, enough time to cover the length of a football field at 55 miles per hour. Drivers who answer text messages are essentially driving blind for nearly 5 seconds.

A study has shown that brain activity typically associated with driving is reduced by 37 percent when the driver is using a cell phone while moving. Since it has also been shown that people are terrible multi-taskers, 37 percent accounts for a large portion of inability to respond promptly to hazards and to react fast in case of emergency.

There is a false sense of security among drivers who use hands-free devices. Statistics show that there is no substantial difference in talking via a headset vs. holding the phone in your hand when it comes to accidents. This concept may be hard to accept because many would argue that talking on the phone is no different than talking to a passenger in your vehicle. However, a Harvard Medical School article helps explain why the brain acts differently in these very different types of situations. According to the article, several studies have shown that driver and passengers were more likely to formulate their conversation around traffic conditions (pausing talking while traffic is heavy or switching lanes). Whereas conversations over the phone did not allow for such pauses since the person on the other end has no idea of what’s going on around the driver, thus never allowing the driver to focus when it was most needed.

Majority of people support a ban on texting and driving, with 74% saying all hand-held device use should be restricted by law. On the contrary, data submitted to USA Today by ATT showed that 49% of all adult drivers admitted to receiving or sending a text message while driving. This shows that even though adults understand the dangers of distracted driving, they are willfully choosing to make exceptions.

Cell Phone Use Among Teen Drivers Statistics

Teens make up the largest group of all distracted drivers.
Teens engage in distracting behavior more often when their parents lead by example. (UMTRI-Toyota 2012 Study)
40% of teens admit to have been in a vehicle where a driver was using a cell phone in a way that endangered them.
11% of all auto fatalities among teens involved distractions.
A survey in 2011 revealed that 45% of teens questioned admitted to sending texts and emails while driving within last month.
Death rates for teens 16-17 go up significantly with each additional passenger.
Newly licensed females are twice as likely to use an electronic device while driving. (AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety 2012)
Cell phone distractions are responsible for 21% of all distraction-related accidents in teen drivers between the ages of 15 and 19.

Faces of Distracted Driving

Statistics paint a large picture of how big of a problem distracted driving is, but no numbers can express the true sadness behind these preventable accidents. In 2010 U.S. Department of Transportation began producing a series of videos called “Faces of Distracted Driving“. Videos feature real life stories from people who have lost loved ones due to distracted driving. We highly recommend watching and sharing them with people you care about. Here is one of the videos:


Pedestrians and Distractions

Drivers aren’t the only ones affected by cell phone distractions. Pedestrians are endangering their own lives by using phones and headphones while walking.

In 2011, at least 1500 pedestrians went to emergency room after being injured as a result of a portable device distraction.
Top cities for pedestrian deaths relative to all traffic deaths: New York (51%), Los Angeles (42%) and Chicago (30%).
A study in Seattle found that only 1 in 4 distracted pedestrians followed proper safety routine when crossing an intersection.
The same study showed that texters were 4 times less likely obey signals, look before crossing and crossing at designated areas.

A study by University of Maryland found 116 cases where pedestrians were injured or killed as a result of wearing headphones. Half of the cases involved trains, and in one third of those instances a warning horn was sounded.

Being inattentive has resulted in all types of injuries in accidents among pedestrians. People have walked into phone poles, fell into ditches, fell off the train platform, got clipped by vehicles while crossing, and fell off the curb. There has been a number of occasions where bicyclists on the phone have hit pedestrians trying to cross a street.

Research shows that our brains are terrible at multi-tasking. A task as simple as walking straight actually takes a lot of focus, an equal amount of attention required to text while walking.

2011 Cell Phone and Driving Statistics

Figures and Estimates
23% (1.3 million) of all traffic accidents involve cell phone use. (National Safety Council estimates) Tweet this
More than two thirds of adults have admitted to talking while driving at least once in the last 30 days.
According to distraction.gov 387,000 people were injured and 3,360 killed as a result of distracted driving.
At least one driver used a cell phone in accidents where 12% (385 people) were killed from distracted driving.
About 21,000 (5% of all distraction-related crashes) people were injured in accidents where cell phones were used at the time of the crash.
495 people who were not inside a vehicle lost their lives in accidents attributed to distractions.

Spread Awareness About Distracted Driving

Help spread awareness about the dangers of distracted driving by sharing this information with people you care about. No matter how much or how little awareness you may generate, every bit counts! Here are some suggestions on how to spread awareness of this issue:

  • Read the “Blueprint for Ending Distracted Driving“. This is a great visual publication made possible by the U.S. Department of Transportation.
  • Speak at schools in your community to educate students and adults about the dangers of cell phone use while driving.
  • Help pass legislation in your state. (Here is how)
  • If distracted driving has impacted your life, share your story. Speak in your community, record a video and join the movement.
  • Share the graphics from this page or any other interesting infographic on your blog or website.
  • Use your social media profiles to direct people to important distracted driving information.

Distracted Driving Awareness Month

April is the national distracted driving awareness month as designated by NHTSA. Visit focusdriven.org to help shine a light on an issue that affects so many families, neighbors and friends.

Talking and texting on the phone while driving is already illegal in many states. Check this publication for laws in your state.

Drivers can be fined between $20 (California) to $10,000 (Alaska) for texting while driving, with additional prison time and license suspensions depending on your state and crime.

Note: Various municipalities in California and other states impose their own fines. Recently in Los Angeles, police gave out $160 tickets to first time offenders.

Distracted driving accidents can result in criminal prosecution, especially with loss of life involved. Even if criminal prosecution fails, a distracted driver may be taken to court in a personal injury lawsuit that can result in thousands if not millions of dollars in payments to the victim(s) or their family.


  1. http://www.ghsa.org/html/stateinfo/laws/cellphone_laws.html
  2. http://www.distraction.gov/content/get-the-facts/facts-and-statistics.html
  3. http://www.vtti.vt.edu/featured/052913-cellphone.html
  4. https://www.fcc.gov/guides/texting-while-driving
  5. http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/05/13/texting-driving-teens/2150755/
  6. http://www.dosomething.org/tipsandtools/11-facts-about-teen-driving
  7. http://stoptextsstopwrecks.org/
  8. http://www.teendriversource.org/stats/support_gov/detail/64
  9. http://articles.latimes.com/2013/aug/05/nation/la-na-pedestrian-safety-20130806
  10. http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2019892279_distracted13m.html
  11. ncs.org