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10 Distracted Driving Facts and Statistics – 2022 Update

man using cell phone while driving

Note: This article’s statistics come from third-party sources and do not represent the opinions of this website.

Distracted driving is one of the leading causes of motor vehicle accidents in the United States, and indeed, around the world.

Distracted driving comes in many forms, from cellphone use to eating or snacking, as well as GPS navigation devices, and even stress or fatigue. Distracted driving can be defined as any activity taking place behind the wheel that doesn’t involve driving, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) advises that any of these can put you at risk, but cellphone use and eating are the two leading causes of distracted driving.

With distracted driving being one of the leading causes of road accidents, let’s take a deeper look at some facts and statistics involving distracted driving, including speed, numbers, and causes.

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The 10 Distracted Driving Facts & Statistics

  1. Distracted driving is one of the leading causes of motor vehicle accidents.
  2. Traffic accidents are on the rise due to distracted driving, largely influenced by increased smartphone use.
  3. The majority of distracted driving incidents are caused by cell phone use.
  4. Distracted driving causes more than 3,000 deaths per year.
  5. Distracted driving causes about 400,000 injuries per year.
  6. Distracted driving causes almost one million accidents per year.
  7. A person who texts and drives is 5–6 times as likely to have a crash than a drunk driver.
  8. 14% of distracted driving casualties come from cellphone use.
  9. Drinking or eating while driving can be up to 80% riskier than cell phone use.
  10. 80% of drivers admit to some form of distracted driving.

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Distracted Driving is Not Slowing Down

1. Distracted driving is one of the leading causes of motor vehicle accidents.

(crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov)

Every day in the United States about 8 people are killed due to distracted driving of some kind. Distracted driving was a factor in 8% of fatal crashes, 15% of injury crashes, and 14% of all police-reported motor accidents in 2018. In the same year, there were 2,841 people killed and another 400,000 injured in crashes with distraction cited as the cause.

motorcycles crash collision hit by car
Image Credit: faboi, Shutterstock

2. Traffic accidents are on the rise due to distracted driving, largely influenced by increased smartphone use.

(nhtsa.gov)

Not only are accidents from distracted driving one of the leading causes of accidents in the US, but they are actually on the rise. There are now over 3,000 people killed every year on average in the US due to distracted driving, with 3,142 fatalities in 2019 — the latest data available. Accidents caused by distracted driving are on the rise, likely due to the correlation in the rise of smartphone use.


3. The majority of distracted driving incidents are caused by cell phone use.

(drivingtestsample.com)

The most common causes of distracted driving are people talking or texting while driving. While GPS and adjusting other controls like music or eating are also involved, the National Safety Council (NSC) estimates that 26% of all car crashes involve cell phones. People using their phones while driving have slower reaction times than even drunk drivers — drunk drivers have a reaction time 12.5% slower than normal, while people texting while driving have a reaction time 37.4% slower than normal!

man texting while driving
Image Credit: Tero Vesalainen, Shutterstock

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Distracted Driving in Numbers

4. Distracted driving causes more than 3,000 deaths per year.

(nhtsa.gov)

On average, distracted driving causes over 3,000 deaths per year. According to the latest data, there were 3,142 deaths in 2019, 2,628 deaths in 2018, and 3,003 deaths in 2017, according to the NHTSA. A shocking 21% of teenagers involved in fatal accidents were distracted by cellphones while driving in 2017.


5. Distracted driving causes about 400,000 injuries per year.

(nhtsa.gov)

Besides causing a high amount of fatalities every year in the United States, distracted driving of all types also results in roughly 400,000 injuries every year. Some estimate that 1 in every 4 road accidents that lead to injury in the US are caused by texting and driving.

wounded man due to car accident
Image Credit: ales_kartal, Pixabay

6. Distracted driving causes almost one million accidents per year.

(crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov)

In 2019, there were a total of 6,756,000 traffic crashes in the US, 986,000 of which were caused by some form of distracted driving. This is a staggering 15% of the total crashes, and 6% of that total were caused by cell phone use, roughly 60,000 people.

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Core Causes of Distracted Driving

7. A person who texts and drives is 5–6 times as likely to have a crash than a drunk driver.

(123duionline.com)

According to a fairly recent AAA study, drivers who text and drive have a 35% slower reaction time — up to three times slower —than a drunk driver. This makes cellphone use while driving the deadliest form of distracted driving, even more so than driving drunk. Distracted driving causes about 400,000–420,000 injuries a year, whereas drunk driving only results in just over 90,000 injuries, roughly six times less than distracted driving!

wreck car on tow truck
Image Credit: gdbaker, Pixabay

8. 14% of distracted driving casualties come from cellphone use.

(iii.org)

Around 14% of distracted driving deaths in 2018 were attributed specifically to cell phone use, as opposed to other forms of distracted driving like GPS use, drowsiness, or eating. Between 2015 and 2019, an average of 440 deaths per year were caused directly by cell phone use.


9. Drinking or eating while driving can be up to 80% riskier than cell phone use.

(farrin.com)

Eating or drinking while driving is also one of the leading causes of distracted driving accidents along with texting and driving, increasing the chance of getting into an accident by up to 80%. Food or drinks can cause a spill that demands your immediate attention, resulting in only one hand on the wheel, and dealing with wrappers, empty cups, and napkins.

Still, because texting involves manual, visual, and cognitive distractions all at once, it’s considered more dangerous overall.

woman driving in Saudi Arabia
Image Credit: H1N1, Shutterstock

10. 80% of drivers admit to some form of distracted driving.

(volvocars.com)

According to a 2019 survey conducted by The Harris Poll and Volvo, 70% of Americans admitted to using their phones while driving, and 80% of drivers admitted to some form of distracted driving including phone use, eating, changing clothes, or even daydreaming.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Distracted Driving

1. Is cell phone use illegal while driving?

For the most part, yes, it’s illegal to use your phone while driving in the United States. That said, talking and texting are not the only use of today’s smartphones, and different states, therefore, have different laws depending on use.

A handheld cellphone ban prohibits all drivers from using phones in their hands while driving and applies to 24 states, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. No state in the US bans all cellphone use for all drivers across the board, but 36 states and D.C. ban all cell phone use by novices or teens while driving, plus, 18 states and D.C. prohibit all cellphone use for school bus drivers. Lastly, 48 states plus D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands ban text messaging while driving for all drivers. (ncsl.org)

woman texting while driving
Image Credit: Boomie, Pixabay

2. What about hands-free cell phone use?

Since any distraction is distraction, regardless of the variety, hands-free cell phone use is still considered distracted driving, although recent research does suggest an improvement. While the user is not physically holding the phone, they are still distracted, and this still poses a danger, but their hands are at least still both on the wheel.

In a 2019 study, researchers found that drivers who used their phones while driving were 2–3 times more likely at risk to crash than the control group, and users using hands-free devices were somewhere between these two. (sciencedaily.com)


3. What activities are considered “distracted driving?”

Put simply, distracted driving is defined as any activity which takes a driver’s attention away from operating their vehicle. This includes but is certainly not limited to:

  • Talking on a cell phone
  • Texting
  • Browsing social media
  • Talking to passengers
  • Putting on make-up or shaving
  • Adjusting the radio or GPS
  • Tending to children or pets in the vehicle
  • Daydreaming
  • Eating or drinking
  • Looking at something outside the vehicle
  • Distracting activities of passengers
  • Reaching for something on the dashboard, seat, or floor of the car

(aceable.com)

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Conclusion

Distracted driving has become a real problem in the United States, especially with the rapid growth of cellphone use in the last decade. While texting and driving is certainly the most dangerous form of distracted driving as it involves manual, visual, and cognitive distractions, there are plenty of other distractions to be concerned about too.

The best remedy to this issue is awareness, and it’s best for both you and other drivers around you for you to be as focused on the road as possible.


Featured Image Credit: zoff, Shutterstock

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