In recent years, people all across the country have shifted their attention to the dangers of texting and driving.
This shift in public discourse may not be surprising. The latest data on the dangers of distracted driving show that in 2018 a staggering 349 fatal crashes were reported to have involved distraction by cell phone use.
What’s more, crashes involving cell-phone related activity accounted for 14% of all distraction-related fatal crashes across the country in that year, resulting in 385 deaths.
In response to the prevalence of texting and driving, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration launched its U Drive. U Text. U Pay. campaign to help raise awareness about these troubling numbers.
These 60+ texting and driving statistics will help you understand the current landscape, and what you can do to make the road a safer place.
Statistics on Texting and Driving By Generation
Of all the drivers involved in fatal crashes caused by cell phone distraction, drivers under 30 years old account for those most likely to be using a cell phone at the time of the incident.
In a 2019 study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, data indicated that compared to all drivers, those between ages 19 to 24 were:
- Most likely hold and talk on a cell phone
- Most likely to manually text or send a text message or email
- Most likely to read on a cell phone while driving
The same study also indicated that a majority of millennials (those born between 1981 and 1996) engaged in at least one risky behavior (texting while driving, red-light running, and speeding) while driving in the last 30 days. Millennials report risky behaviors such as speeding on the freeway and reading text messages at an even greater frequency than Gen Z drivers born after 1996, which earn millennials the top spot as the worst behaved drivers in the United States.
The most recent data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also indicates similar trends. 34% of fatal crashes caused by distracted drivers on their cell phones involve drivers that were 20 to 29 years old — the highest percentage of any age bracket. It is reported that for all fatal crashes involving distracted drivers using cell phones:
Distracted Drivers Involved in Fatal Crashes
|Age||% of Drivers|
As you can see, young adults are some of the worst offenders when it comes to distracted driving:
- 45.9% of drivers 16-18 years old report reading a text message or email while driving in the past 30 days
- 34.5% of drivers 16-18 years old report texting or sending an email while driving in the past 30 days
- 54.2% of drivers 19-24 years old report reading a text message or email while driving in the past 30 days
- 49.7% of drivers 19-24 years old report texting or sending a text message or email while driving in the past 30 days
It is worth noting that while young drivers report high rates of texting and driving, it’s actually drivers ages 25-39 who report reading text messages most often. 56% of drivers age 25-29 report reading a text message or email while driving in the past 30 days.
Statistics on Teens Texting and Driving
Teen drivers are the fourth most prevalent age group to use cell phones while driving.
In 2017, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that:
- 9% of all teen motor vehicle crash deaths involve distracted driving
- 9% of distracted drivers involved in fatal crashes are teens 15 to 19 years old
- 8% of teen drivers 15 to 19 years old involved in fatal crashes were reported as distracted at the time of the incidents
- 52% of people killed in teen distraction-related crashes are teens 15 to 19 years old
Texting and Driving Statistics by Gender
Looking at texting and driving through a gendered lens unearths some interesting findings on the differences between male and female distracted driving habits. In 2015, data indicated the following:
Female Distracted Driving Habits
- 50% of female drivers ages 45 to 54 are the most likely to say that they would use an app designed to block phone calls and text messaging while driving
- 79% of females are very likely to intervene when the driver of their vehicle is sending text messages or emails while driving
- 7% of female drivers send text messages or emails while driving at least some of the time
- 81% of female drivers never send text messages or emails while driving
- 9% of female drivers read text messages or emails while driving at least some of the time
- 76% of female drivers never read text messages or emails while driving
- 87% of female drivers never use smartphone apps while driving
- 79% of females are very likely to intervene when the driver of their vehicle is sending text messages while driving.
Male Distracted Driving Habits
- 71% of males are very likely to intervene if the driver of their vehicle is sending text messages or emails while driving
- 9 % of male drivers send text messages or emails while driving at least some of the time
- 79% of male drivers never send text messages or emails while driving
- 13% of male drivers read text messages or emails while driving at least some of the time
- 73% of male drivers never read text messages or emails while driving
- 80% of male drivers never use smartphone apps while driving
It turns out that women are more likely to: intervene if their driver is texting while driving; never send text messages while driving; and never read text messages while driving when compared to their male counterparts.
Reasons That People Text and Drive
There are a number of reasons that prompt people to engage in distracted driving on the road. Work-related messages are more likely to prompt drivers to text and drive, over personal or social messages. These are the most popular motivators:
- The message is important (43%)
- The message is work-related (9%)
- The message is personal or social (8%)
- The person the driver is messaging is important (8%)
- The driver needs to report a traffic crash or emergency (6%)
- The message makes or responds to a quick or short message or call (4%)
- The driver needs directions or other information (4%)
When it comes to how people rate their driving abilities, reports indicate that drivers are overconfident in their ability to text and drive, though it makes them nervous when others do:
- 31% of drivers report no difference in their driving when they text
- 34% of drivers report being distracted or not as aware of things when texting and driving
- 12% of drivers report they drive slower while texting and driving
- 86% of people indicate that they would feel very unsafe if their driver was sending text messages or emails while driving
- 81% also report that they would feel very unsafe if their drivers were reading texts or emails while driving
- 47% of people report that they would feel safe if their drivers used a hands-free device to talk on a cell phone while driving
Situations That Prevent Drivers From Texting and Driving
Data indicates that drivers are less likely to text and drive if:
Texting and Driving Laws
Today, 48 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands all have a ban on texting when driving. However, distracted driving laws and enforcement vary from state to state.
Take a look at the table below to get a detailed breakdown of distracted driving laws across the United States.
Primary Versus Secondary Enforcement
As you’ll see in the table below, some bans are subject to primary enforcement, while others are subject to secondary enforcement.
Primary enforcement means that a police officer is allowed to stop and ticket a driver when the officer observes a violation of the law (like texting and driving).
Secondary enforcement means that the officer cannot stop and ticket a driver unless they engage in that offense and an additional violation (like texting and driving while also speeding).
|State||Hand-held ban||Texting ban||Enforcement|
|Arizona||All drivers||All drivers||Primary: hand-held cell phone use; cell phone use by school bus drivers
Secondary: cell phone use by young drivers
|Arkansas||School and work zones only||All drivers||Primary: for texting by drivers and cell phone use by school bus drivers
Secondary: for cell phone use by young drivers, drivers in school and work zones
|California||All drivers||All drivers||Primary: handheld and texting by all drivers
Secondary: all cell phone use by young drivers
|Connecticut||All drivers||All drivers||Primary|
|Delaware||All drivers||All drivers||Primary|
|District of Columbia||All drivers||All drivers||Primary|
|Florida||School and work zones only||All drivers||Primary|
|Georgia||All drivers||All drivers||Primary|
|Hawaii||All drivers||All drivers||Primary|
|Idaho||All drivers||All drivers||Primary|
|Illinois||All drivers||All drivers||Primary|
|Indiana||All drivers||All drivers||Primary|
|Louisiana||Drivers with learner permit or intermediate license; drivers in school zones||All drivers||Primary|
|Maine||All drivers||All drivers||Primary|
|Maryland||All drivers||All drivers||Primary|
|Massachusetts||All drivers||All drivers||Primary|
|Minnesota||Yes(effective 8/1/2019)||All drivers||Primary|
|Missouri||No||Drivers 21 and under||Primary|
|New Hampshire||All drivers||All drivers||Primary|
|New Jersey||All drivers||All drivers||Primary|
|New Mexico||No||All drivers||Primary|
|New York||All drivers||All drivers||Primary|
|North Carolina||No||All drivers||Primary|
|North Dakota||No||All drivers||Primary|
|Oklahoma||Drivers with learner or intermediate license||All drivers||Primary: hand-held use by drivers with learner or intermediate license
Secondary: texting while driving
|Oregon||All drivers||All drivers||Primary|
|Puerto Rico||All drivers||All drivers||Primary|
|Rhode Island||All drivers||All drivers||Primary|
|South Carolina||No||All drivers||Primary|
|South Dakota||All drivers||All drivers||Primary|
|Texas||Drivers in school crossing zones||All drivers (effective 9/01/2017)||Primary|
|U.S. Virgin Islands||All drivers||All drivers||Primary|
|Vermont||All drivers||All drivers||Primary|
|Virginia||All drivers||All drivers||Primary: hand-held use; for texting by all driversSecondary: all cell phone use for drivers younger than 18|
|Washington||All drivers||All drivers||Primary|
|West Virginia||All drivers||All drivers||Primary|
|Wisconsin||Drivers in work zones||All drivers||Primary|
While the majority of states across the country have enacted regulations aimed at distracted driving, the overall awareness of these laws varies across drivers:
- 57% of drivers believe their state has, or likely has, a law banning talking on a cell phone while driving
- 76% of drivers believe that their States has, or likely has, a law banning texting or emailing on a phone while driving
- In States that ban sending or reading text messages and emails while driving, 36% of drivers were unaware of the law
- In States without laws banning the sending and receiving of text messages, 25% of drivers were aware that their States did not have such a law
The Dangers of Distracted Driving
The effects of distracted driving, especially texting and driving, are severe and irreversible.
A 2018 study published by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that:
- Texting doubles your chances of getting in any kind of accident — which can raise your insurance rates
- Texting triples your chances of being involved in a crash where the vehicle actually departs the road (drives off the roadway, crashes into a tree, hits a sign, etc.)
- Texting increases your odds of rear-ending another vehicle by a multiple of 7
Moreover, in 2018, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that:
- 2,628 crashes happened as a result of distracted driving
- Of all 33,654 fatal crashes that year, 8% of the total crashes involved distracted driving
- 349 fatal distraction-affected crashes involved a cell phone in use
- 2,841 fatalities occurred as a result of distraction-affected crashes
- 385 fatalities resulted from distraction-affected crashes with a cell phone in use
- 2,688 drivers were involved in distraction-affected crashes
- 354 drivers were involved in a distraction-affected crash with a cell phone in use
Texting and driving is a huge issue, but texting isn’t the only form of distraction on the road. Distracted driving refers to any activity that sidetracks your attention from driving.
Activities that lead to distracted driving come in a multitude of forms and include:
- Talking on your phone
- Talking to someone in your vehicle
- Tinkering with an entertainment or navigation system
Distracted driving is separated into three categories. Visual, when you take your eyes off the road. Manual, when you take your hands off the wheel. Cognitive, when you take your mind off of driving.
Every day, approximately 8 people are killed and over 1,000 injured due to distracted driving. Distracted driving is such a huge issue that there are companies dedicated to monitoring your phone usage while driving. Companies like Zendrive analyze driving behavior and use a combination of data capture and pattern analysis to determine if a driver is engaging in safe or risky behaviors at a given time or place.
Zendrive even allows insurance companies the option to integrate Zendrive’s monitoring services into their mobile app. If a user has granted permission and an insurance company has integrated a service like Zendrive into their mobile app, this data could impact the user’s auto insurance rates.
The best way to avoid the pitfalls of texting and driving is simple: avoid it completely.
Tips for Preventing Texting and Driving
If you’re looking to break your dangerous habit of texting and driving, consider these practical tips:
- Keep your phone out of reach or out of sight while driving.
- Turn your phone on ‘Do Not Disturb’ mode or turn your phone’s notification volume to silent and keep the vibrate function off while in the car.
- Use an app to block incoming calls or texts while driving.
- Pullover to a safe location and stop your vehicle entirely to send or read a text message.
- Securely mount your phone to your dashboard, if you need your phone for navigational purposes, and keep your phone on ‘Do Not Disturb’ mode while driving to prevent notifications from distracting your attention.
- Make a social commitment and tell your friends that you’re not going to text and drive.
- Get involved! Help stop distracted driving by encouraging your peers, colleagues, or loved ones to curb their dangerous driving habits, or by spreading the word about the potential dangers of distracted driving.
The dangers of texting and driving should not be taken lightly. Every time a driver switches their focus from driving safely on the road to their cell phone, they increase their likelihood of being involved in (or the cause of) a fatal car crash.
Arm yourself with the tips above to curb your own texting and driving habits and remember the information you learned today the next time you reach for your phone or hear that fateful message ping the next time you’re driving.
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