Each day in the United States, approximately 9 people are killed and more than 1,000 injured in crashes that are reported to involve a distracted driver.1
Distracted driving is driving while doing another activity that takes your attention away from driving. Distracted driving can increase the chance of a motor vehicle crash.
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
Anything that takes your attention away from driving can be a distraction. Sending a text message, talking on a cell phone, using a navigation system, and eating while driving are a few examples of distracted driving. 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 When you send or read a text message, you take your eyes off the road for about 5 seconds, long enough to cover the length a football field while driving at 55 mph.4
How big is the problem?
In 2016, 3,450 people were killed in crashes involving a distracted driver.1
In 2015, 391,000 people were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving a distracted driver.1
|Distracted Driving Deaths||3,092||3,331||3,328||3,154||3,179||3,477|
|All Motor Vehicle Deaths||32,999||32,479||33,782||32,894||32,744||35,092|
|Distracted Driving Injuries||416,000||387,000||421,000||424,000||431,000||391,000|
|All Motor Vehicle Injuries||2,239,000||2,217,000||2,362,000||2,313,000||2,338,000||2,443,000|
Who is most at risk?
Young adult and teen drivers
- Drivers under the age of 20 have the highest proportion of distraction-related fatal crashes.1
- In 2017 9% of all teen motor vehicle crash deaths involved distracted driving.5
- CDC’s national Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS) monitors health-risk behaviors among high school students, including texting or emailing while driving.6,7 Recent YRBSS findings include:
- In 2017, 42% of high school students who drove in the past 30 days reported sending a text or email while driving.7
- Students who reported frequent texting while driving were:
- Less likely to wear a seatbelt.6
- More likely to ride with a driver who had been drinking.6
- More likely to drink and drive.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 help prevent 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 distracted driving laws. 8
- As of March 2019, 16 states and the District of Columbia had banned drivers from hand-held phone use. 8
- As of March 2019, texting while driving is banned in 47 states and the District of Columbia. Two additional states ban texting while driving for new drivers. 8
- Some local governments also have bans on cell phone use and texting while driving.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.11
- From 2010 to 2013, NHTSA evaluated the Distracted Driving Demonstration Projects. These projects increased police enforcement of distracted driving laws and increased awareness of distracted driving using radio advertisements, news stories, and similar media. After the projects were complete, observed driver cell phone use fell from 4.1% to 2.7% in California, 6.8% to 2.9% in Connecticut, 4.5% to 3.0% in Delaware, and 3.7% to 2.5% in New York.13, 14
- In April of 2014, NHTSA began their annual “U Drive. U Text. U Pay.” campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of distracted driving.15
NHTSA provides campaign materials for state and local law enforcement:
- NHTSA Enforcement Campaign Resources, such as Products for Enforcement Action Kit (PEAK), are available at www.trafficsafetymarketing.govexternal icon.
- Distracted Driving Enforcement – TV Ads (Paid). For re-tagging, go to: www.trafficsafetymarketing.gov/state-requestsexternal icon.
- Official U.S. Government Website for Distracted Drivingexternal icon
- Insurance Institute for Highway Safety: Q&As about distracted driving and state law mapsexternal icon
- World Health Organization – Mobile Phone Use: A Growing Problem of Driver Distractionexternal icon
- Governors Highway Safety Association: Distracted Drivingexternal icon
- National Conference of State Legislators: Distracted Driving Lawsexternal icon
This fact sheet provides an overview of distracted driving and promising strategies that are being used to address distracted driving.
- National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Traffic Safety Facts Research Notes 2016: Distracted Driving.S. Department of Transportation, Washington, DC: NHTSA; 2015. Available at https://crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Public/ViewPublication/812517external icon. Accessed 25 March 2019.
- National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Policy Statement and Compiled FAQs on Distracted Driving. U.S. Department of Transportation, Washington, DC. Available at: http://www.nhtsa.gov.edgesuite-staging.net/Driving+Safety/Distracted+Driving/Policy+Statement+and+Compiled+FAQs+on+Distracted+Drivingexternal icon. Accessed 11 April 2018.
- Vegega, M., Jones, B., and Monk, C. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Understanding the effects of distracted driving and developing strategies to reduce resulting deaths and injuries: A report to congresspdf iconexternal icon. U.S. Department of Transportation, Washington, DC: 2013.
- National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Facts and Statistics. U.S. Department of Transportation, Washington, DC. Available at: http://www.distraction.gov/stats-research-laws/facts-and-statistics.htmlexternal icon. Accessed 11 April 2018.
- National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Teen and Distracted Driving 2017. Available at: https://crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Public/ViewPublication/812667. Accessed 25 March 2019.
- Olsen, E.O., R.A. Shults, and D.K. Eaton. Texting while driving and other risky motor vehicle behaviors among US high school studentsexternal icon. Pediatrics, 2013. 131(6): p. e1708-15.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance—United States, 2015pdf icon. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/features/yrbs/. Accessed 25 March 2019.
- Insurance Institutes for Highway Safety. Distracted Driving: Cellphones and texting. 2018. Available at: http://www.iihs.org/iihs/topics/laws/cellphonelawsexternal icon. Accessed 11 April 2018.
- Federal Leadership on Reducing Text Messaging while Driving (Executive Order 13513). 2009: 3 CFR. p. 3. Available at: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2009/10/06/E9-24203/federal-leadership-on-reducing-text-messaging-while-drivingexternal icon. Accessed 11 April 2018
- Federal Railroad Administration. Restrictions on Railroad Operating Employees: Use of Cellular Telephones and Other Electronic Devices. 2010. Available at: https://www.fra.dot.gov/eLib/details/L03256external icon. Accessed 11 April 2018
- Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Limiting the Use of Wireless Communication Devices. 2010. Available at: https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/regulations/rulemaking/2010-23861external icon. Accessed 16 April 2018
- Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. Commercial Motor Vehicle Drivers: Restricting the Use of Cellular Phones. 2011. Available at: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2011/12/02/2011-30749/drivers-of-cmvs-restricting-the-use-of-cellular-phonesexternal icon. Accessed 11 April 2018.
- Chaudhary, N. K., Casanova-Powell, T. D., Cosgrove, L., et. al. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Evaluation of NHTSA distracted driving demonstration projects in Connecticut and New Yorkpdf iconexternal icon. U.S Department of Transportation, Washington, DC; 2012.
- Chaudhary, N. K., Connolly, J., Tison, J., Solomon, M. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Evaluation of the NHTSA distracted driving high-visibility enforcement demonstration projects in California and Delawarepdf iconexternal icon. U. S. Department of Transportation, Washington, DC; 2015.
- National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Distracted Driving. U Drive. U Text. U Pay. Available at: https://www.trafficsafetymarketing.gov/get-materials/distracted-driving/u-drive-u-text-u-payexternal icon. Accessed 11 April 2018.