What are the types of distraction?
There are three main types of distraction:
- Visual: taking your eyes off the road;
- Manual: taking your hands off the wheel; and
- Cognitive: taking your mind off of driving.2
Distracted driving activities
Distracted driving activities include things like using a cell phone, texting, and eating. Using in-vehicle technologies (such as navigation systems) can also be sources of distraction. While any of these distractions can endanger the driver and others, texting while driving is especially dangerous because it combines all three types of distraction.3
How big is the problem?
- In 2013, 3,154 people were killed in crashes involving a distracted driver, compared to 3,328 in 2012.1,4
- In 2013, 424,000 people were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving a distracted driver, an almost 10% increase since 2011.1
- In 2013, nearly one in five crashes (18%) in which someone was injured involved distracted driving.1
What are the risk factors?
- Some activities—such as texting—take the driver’s attention away from driving more frequently and for longer periods than other distractions.3
- At 55 mph, the average text takes your eyes off the road long enough to cover a football field. 3
Young adult and teen drivers
- Drivers under the age of 20 have the highest proportion of distraction-related fatal crashes.1,3
- The national The Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS) monitors health-risk behaviors among high school students, including sending texts while driving.6,7
- In 2013, more than two out of five students who drove in the past 30 days sent a text or email while driving. 7
- Those who text while driving are nearly twice as likely to ride with a driver who has been drinking.6
- Students who frequently text while driving are more likely to ride with a drinking driver or drink and drive than students who text while driving less frequently.6
What is being done?
- Many states are enacting laws—such as banning texting while driving, or using graduated driver licensing systems for teen drivers—to help raise awareness about the dangers of distracted driving and to keep it from occurring. However, the effectiveness of cell phone and texting laws on decreasing distracted driving-related crashes requires further study. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety keeps track of such laws.8
- On September 30, 2009, President Obama issued an executive order prohibiting federal employees from texting while driving on government business or with government equipment.9
- On September 17, 2010, the Federal Railroad Administration banned cell phone and electronic device use of employees on the job.10
- On October 27, 2010, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration enacted a ban that prohibits commercial vehicle drivers from texting while driving.11
- In 2011, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration banned all hand-held cell phone use by commercial drivers and drivers carrying hazardous materials.12
What are CDC’s research and program activities in this area?
CDC distracted driving study
A 2011 CDC study compared the percentage of distracted drivers in the United States and seven European countries: Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, and the United Kingdom. Overall, the study found that a higher percentage of U.S. drivers talked on the phone and read or sent emails or texts while driving than drivers in several other European countries.
A CDC study analyzed 2011 data on distracted driving, including talking on a cell phone or reading or sending texts or emails behind the wheel.5 The researchers compared the prevalence of talking on a cell phone or texting or emailing while driving in the United States and seven European countries: Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, and the United Kingdom.
Key findings included the following:
Talking on a cell phone while driving
- 69% of drivers in the United States ages 18-64 reported that they had talked on their cell phone while driving within the 30 days before they were surveyed.
- In Europe, this percentage ranged from 21% in the United Kingdom to 59% in Portugal.
Texting or emailing while driving
- 31% of U.S. drivers ages 18-64 reported that they had read or sent text messages or email messages while driving at least once within the 30 days before they were surveyed.
- In Europe, this percentage ranged from 15% in Spain to 31% in Portugal.5
- CDC MMWR: Mobile Device Use While Driving — United States and Seven European Countries, 2011
- Distracted Driving Digital Press Kit
- Eyes on the Road podcast (A Cup of Health with CDC)
- National Center for Statistics and Analysis, Distracted Driving: 2013 Data, in Traffic Safety Research Notes. DOT HS 812 132. April 2015, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: Washington, D.C.
- National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Policy Statement and Compiled FAQs on Distracted Driving. [cited 2016 Feb 23]; Available from: http://www.nhtsa.gov/Driving+Safety/Distracted+Driving+at+Distraction.gov/Policy+Statement+and+Compiled+FAQs+on+Distracted+Driving.
- National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Facts and Statistics. [cited 2016 Feb 23]; Available from: http://www.distraction.gov/stats-research-laws/facts-and-statistics.html.
- National Center for Statistics and Analysis, Distracted Driving: 2012 Data, in Traffic Safety Research Notes. DOT HS 812 012. April 2014, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: Washington, D.C.
- Mobile device use while driving--United States and seven European countries, 2011. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep, 2013. 62(10): p. 177-82.
- Olsen, E.O., R.A. Shults, and D.K. Eaton, Texting while driving and other risky motor vehicle behaviors among US high school students. Pediatrics, 2013. 131(6): p. e1708-15.
- Kann, L., et al., Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance- United States, 2013. 2014, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Atlanta, GA. p. 172.
- Insurance Institutes for Highway Safety. Distracted Driving: Cellphones and texting. February 2016 [cited 2016 Feb 24]; Available from: http://www.iihs.org/iihs/topics/laws/cellphonelaws.
- Federal Leadership on Reducing Text Messaging while Driving(Executive Order 13513). 2009: 3 CFR. p. 3.
- Federal Railroad Administration. Restrictions on Railroad Operating Employees: Use of Cellular Telephones and Other Electronic Devices. 2010; Available from: https://www.fra.dot.gov/eLib/details/L03256.
- Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Limiting the Use of Wireless Communication Devices. 2010 [cited 2016 Feb 23]; Available from: https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/regulations/rulemaking/2010-23861.
- Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. Commercial Motor Vehicle Drivers: Restricting the Use of Cellular Phones. 2011 [cited Feb 23 2016]; Available from: http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=PHMSA-2010-0227-0009.