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37+ Scary Texting and Driving Statistics (2022)

by Josh Howarth
October 31, 2022

For decades, drunk driving was a top danger on our roadways. Since the rise of the smartphone, texting and driving has become just as (if not more) hazardous than driving under the influence.

Smartphones are incredible tools, giving us access to information and connectivity wherever we are. But behind the wheel, smartphones are a leading cause of distracted driving, leading to accidents and deaths on our roads.

What are the numbers behind texting and driving, and distracted driving in general? Keep reading to find out.

Contents

Top Texting and Distracted Driving Statistics

Before diving into the full list of stats, here’s a quick look at the most eye-opening texting and driving statistics:

  • 660,000 drivers in the US are using their phones while driving at any given time.
  • 1 in 5 US adults admits to texting while driving.
  • 3,170 people on average are killed in accidents involving distracted drivers each year.
  • Texting and driving lead to slower reaction times than drunk driving.
  • Using a cellphone can double your risk of getting into a car accident.
  • 35% of drivers admit to taking a selfie while driving.
  • Car crashes are the #2 cause of death among US teens.

Ready to examine texting and distracted driving in more detail?

Texting and Driving Statistics

Even if you don’t text and drive, chances are you know someone who does. Whether or not the rising rates of smartphone addiction are to blame, drivers just can’t seem to put down their phones when behind the wheel.

660,000 drivers in the US are using cellphones behind the wheel at any given moment (TDI)

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As you’re reading this, over half a million drivers in America are texting or using smartphone apps. Driving while using a smartphone diminishes drivers’ visibility by up to 50%, putting them at risk of colliding with other vehicles, bicycles, or pedestrians.

Texting and driving leads to slower reaction times than drunk driving (NSC)

Drivers using cellphones have slower reaction times than drivers with and 0.8 blood alcohol concentration. Braking time—which is crucial to avoiding road collisions—is also more delayed when drivers use their cellphones.

20% of drivers text or email while driving (NHTSA)

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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Distracted Driving Survey found that 1 in 5 drivers report sending or receiving texts or emails while behind the wheel. 9% of drivers said they text or email at least sometimes, while 11% said they do so only on rare occasions.

Using a cellphone while driving can double your risk of getting into an accident (AAA)

A 2018 study commissioned by AAA found that interacting with cellphones while driving increased the risk of an accident by almost 100%. Cellphone use most notably correlated with accidents clearly caused by the distracted driver, such as rear-end collisions and road departures.

Licensed drivers make up 69% of the US population (FHWA)

There are over 228 million licensed drivers in the US. 98% of those drivers live in states where texting behind the wheel is banned.

48 states currently have laws against texting and driving (GHSA)

45 states have primary enforcement texting and driving bans, which means that drivers can be pulled over just for visibility texting behind the wheel. 3 other states—Nebraska, Oklahoma, and South Dakota—have secondary bans, which means that drivers must be doing something in addition to texting while driving, like speeding or running a stop sign. Montana and Missouri have not banned texting and driving for adults.

Drivers say that texting is their #1 distraction while driving (Insurance.com)

When asked in a survey what their top distractions are behind the wheel, 38% of drivers said texting. That’s more than operating a navigation system (25%), dealing with screaming children (24%), and adjusting music settings (17%).

Each text takes your attention away from the road for 5 seconds (NHTSA)

Texting and driving—whether sending or receiving a text—takes an average of 5 seconds of your attention. If you’re driving on the highway at 55 MPH, you’re taking your eyes off the road for 400 feet while you text. At 75 MPH, that distance jumps to 550 feet.

It can take up to 27 seconds to regain focus after texting while driving (AAA)

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It’s not just the time spent reading or composing a text that distracts drivers. The human brain needs time to refocus between texting and watching the road—something known as the “hangover effect.” This refocusing period can last as long as 27 seconds.

Over one quarter of drivers say they’d only text during an urgent situation (Insurance.com)

Drivers who admit to texting while driving do so for a multitude of reasons. 29% say they’d only do so if sending or receiving a text was urgent. However, 19% of texting drivers say they’d text simply to respond to a text they received. Even worse, 7% say they text out of boredom or just to say “hello.”

42% of drivers say they’re more likely to text while driving if they think the message is important (NHTSA)

The likelihood of texting behind the wheel increases with the perceived importance of the message. But there are other factors that can make someone more likely to text and drive. 9% of drivers say they’re more likely to text if the message is work-related. Another 9% said they’d be more likely to text if it was for personal or social reasons.

Distracted Driving Statistics

Texting and driving is just one aspect of a larger problem: distracted driving. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration classifies three different types of distracted driving:

  • Visual distractions take the driver’s eyes off the road. Texting, watching videos, and looking at passengers are all visual distractions.
    • Manual distractions take the driver’s hands off the wheel. Adjusting the volume on the car stereo, eating food, and sending text messages or emails are examples of manual distractions.
      • Cognitive distractions take the driver’s mind off the task of driving. These include things like spacing out or daydreaming.

Some activities, like texting behind the wheel, can cover all three categories of distracted driving. Here are some of the latest distracted driving statistics.

3,170 people on average are killed in accidents involving distracted drivers each year (NHTSA)

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Accidents involving distracted drivers make up 8-9% of total fatal crashes. 12-14% of distracted drivers involved in fatal crashes were using their cellphones.

Programming navigation apps is the most distracting behavior for drivers (iDriveSafely)

Programming directions into navigation and GPS apps takes an average of 40 seconds of attention away from the road. On top of that, it takes an average of 13 seconds for drivers to refocus after using navigation apps.

51% of drivers admit to looking up directions on their smartphones while driving (iDriveSafely)

Over half of drivers look for directions while their vehicles are already in motion.

It’s not just directions they’re looking up either. 18% of drivers admit to looking up bars, restaurants, and other establishments on apps like Yelp while driving.

13% of drivers use their phones behind the wheel multiple times per day (Insurance.com)

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Just under half (43%) of drivers say they very rarely use their phones while driving. But 31% use their phones behind the wheel every day—18% only a few times per day and 13% multiple times per day.

Making a phone call is the most common reason drivers use their phones behind the wheel (Insurance.com)

When asked to list reasons why they use their phones while driving, 49% of drivers said making a phone call. 43% said using a navigation app, 29% said using voice-to-text, and 26% said texting.

35% of drivers admit to taking a selfie while driving (Insurance.com)

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Taking selfies behind the wheel appears to be a growing trend. In 2020, 11% of drivers admitted to taking selfies while driving. In 2021, that number more than tripled to 35%. Top reasons drivers gave for taking selfies were to capture majestic views, to document severe weather events, or to share funny videos or commentary on social media.

Teen Distracted Driving Statistics

For teenagers, driving is more dangerous than it is for the rest of the population. They have less experience on the road and are more prone to texting and other distracted driving behaviors. Here are the latest stats on teen distracted driving.

Car crashes are the #2 cause of death among US teens (CDC)

Each day, around 7 teenagers aged 13-19 die in car accidents. Teens are also 3 times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than adults aged 20 or older.

9% of teens involved in fatal crashes were distracted at the time of the crash (CDC)

Teens involved in fatal crashes are more likely to be distracted than drivers aged 21 or older. According to DriveSafeOnline, teens who text and drive veer outside of their driving lane up to 10% of the time

39% of high school students text or email while driving (CDC)

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In a 2019 CDC survey of US high school students, 39% said they texted or emailed while driving over the past 30 days. The survey also found that students who text while driving are more likely to engage in other risky driving behaviors like not wearing a seatbelt or driving after consuming alcohol.

Wrap Up

Any form of distracted driving—whether it’s texting, using navigation apps, or adjusting music—creates an immediate risk for drivers, their passengers, and anyone else on the road.

While we’re used to having our smartphones wherever we go, getting behind the wheel is the one place where phones are best kept out of sight.