NHTSA reports distracted driving up 250% over 7 year span

Research has shown that because of cognitive distraction, the behavior of drivers using mobile phones (whether hand-held or hands-free) is equivalent to the behavior of drivers at the threshold of the legal limit for alcohol.

According to NHTSA, in 2017 3,166 people were killed in crashes involving a distracted driver. There were 391,000 people injured in crashes involving a distracted driver in 2015, the latest year for which injury data is available. Additionally, crashes in which at least one driver was identified as being distracted imposed an economic cost of $40 billion in 2010. However, issues with underreporting crashes involving cell phones remain because of gaps in police crash report coding, database limitations, and other challenges. It is clear from an increasing body of research, studies and data that the use of electronic devices for telecommunications (such as mobile phones and text messaging), telematics and entertainment can easily distract drivers from the driving task.

distracted driving map

Crash risk increases dramatically – as much as four times higher – when a driver is using a mobile phone, with no significant safety difference between hand-held and hands-free phones observed in many studies.

  • According to NHTSA data, more than 8% of fatal crashes in 2017 were reported as distraction-affected crashes; however, as noted above, there are problems with underreporting. dont text & drive billboard
  • A 2016 survey conducted by State Farm found that accessing the internet, reading and updating social media networks on a cell phone while driving more than doubled from 2009 to 2016. Additionally, about 10% of those surveyed in 2016 were also playing games on a cell phone while driving.
  • Approximately 2 trillion text and multimedia messages are sent or received in the U.S. annually, on average.
  • Four out of ten respondents claimed to have been hit or nearly hit as a result of a distracted driver, according to a survey by Nationwide Insurance.
  • According to the NHTSA, the percentage of drivers visibly manipulating hand-held devices while driving increased by 250 percent between 2009 and 2016.
  • Nine percent of drivers 15 to 19 years old involved in a fatal crash were reported distracted at the time of the crash in 2016, according to NHTSA. This age group has the largest proportion of drivers who were distracted.
  • More than 80% of teens said they use their smartphones while driving, according to a report by State Farm.
  • Nearly half (42%) of high school students who drove in the past 30 days reported sending a text or email while driving, according to a 2015 survey.
  • Per a NHTSA survey, 92% of respondents supported state laws banning texting or emailing while driving.


dont text and driveSending or receiving a text message causes the driver’s eyes to be off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds. When driving 55 miles per hour, this is the equivalent of driving blind the entire length of a football field.

Currently, 43 states and DC ban text messaging for all drivers.

Given the growth of smartphone capability and usage and the broadening range of distracting electronic communication platforms (apps, social media, gaming, video chatting, etc.), Advocates will be redefining the optimal all-driver text messaging restriction in coming Roadmap Reports. This change will reflect the ongoing development of wireless communication technology, the growth of platforms and communication options, and concern about their use while driving.

Thirty states have a GDL cell phone restriction. Don’t text and drive.


Final 2019 Roadmap report