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Distracted Driving

At 55 mph, sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for about 5 seconds, long enough to cover a football field.

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 Sending or reading a text message takes your eyes off the road for about 5 seconds, long enough to cover a football field while driving at 55 mph.4

How big is the problem?

US deaths

In 2015, 3,477 people were killed in crashes involving a distracted driver.1

US injuries

In 2015, 391,000 people were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving a distracted driver.1

2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
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
  • CDC’s national Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS) monitors health-risk behaviors among high school students, including sending texts while driving.5,6 Recent YRBSS findings include:
    • In 2015, 42% of high school students who drove in the past 30 days reported sending a text or email while driving.6
    • Students who reported frequent texting while driving were:
      • Less likely to wear a seatbelt.5
      • More likely to ride with a driver who had been drinking.5
      • More likely to drink and drive.5

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. 7
  • As of June 2017, 14 states and the District of Columbia had banned drivers from hand-held phone use. 7
  • As of June 2017, texting while driving is banned in 46 states and the District of Columbia. Two additional states ban texting while driving only for new drivers. 7
  • Some local governments also have bans on cell phone use and texting while driving.7

Federal government

  • On September 30, 2009, President Obama issued an executive order prohibiting federal employees from texting while driving on government business or with government equipment.8
  • On September 17, 2010, the Federal Railroad Administration banned cell phone and electronic device use of employees on the job.9
  • On October 27, 2010, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration enacted a ban that prohibits commercial vehicle drivers from texting while driving.10
  • 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.12, 13
  • In April of 2015, NHTSA began the “U Drive. U Text. U Pay.” campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of distracted driving.14
    NHTSA provides campaign materials for state and local law enforcement:


  1. National Center for Statistics and Analysis. Distracted Driving: 2015, in Traffic Safety Research Notes. DOT HS 812 381. March 2017, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: Washington, D.C.
  2. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Policy Statement and Compiled FAQs on Distracted Driving. [cited 2017 April 13]Available from:
  3. Vegega, M., Jones, B., and Monk, C. (2013, December). Understanding the effects of distracted driving and developing strategies to reduce resulting deaths and injuries: A report to congress. (Report No. DOT HS 812 053. Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
  4. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Facts and Statistics. [cited 2016 Feb 23] Available from:
  5. 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.
  6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance- United States, 2015. 2016, [Cited April 13, 2017] Available from:
  7. Insurance Institutes for Highway Safety. Distracted Driving: Cellphones and texting. April 2017 [cited April 13, 2017]. Available from:
  8. Federal Leadership on Reducing Text Messaging while Driving (Executive Order 13513). 2009: 3 CFR. p. 3. [Cited April 13, 2017] Available from:
  9. Federal Railroad Administration. Restrictions on Railroad Operating Employees: Use of Cellular Telephones and Other Electronic Devices. 2010; [Cited April 13, 2017] Available from:
  10. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Limiting the Use of Wireless Communication Devices. 2010 [cited April 13, 2017]; Available from:
  11. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. Commercial Motor Vehicle Drivers: Restricting the Use of Cellular Phones. 2011 [cited April 13 2017] Available from:
  12. Chaudhary, N. K., Casanova-Powell, T. D., Cosgrove, L., Reagan, I., & Williams, A. (2012, August). Evaluation of NHTSA distracted driving demonstration projects in Connecticut and New York. (Report No. DOT HS 811 635). Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
  13. Chaudhary, N. K., Connolly, J., Tison, J., Solomon, M., & Elliott, K. (2015, January). Evaluation of the NHTSA distracted driving high-visibility enforcement demonstration projects in California and Delaware. (Report No. DOT HS 812 108). Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
  14. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Distracted Driving. U Drive. U Text. U Pay. [Cited April 13, 2017] Available from: