Distracted Driving

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. 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.

Types of Distraction

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.

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. 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.  

The Problem

How big is the problem?

US deaths

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

US injuries

In 2015, 391,000 people were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving a distracted driver.  
 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.
  • CDC’s national Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS) monitors health-risk behaviors among high school students, including sending texts while driving. 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.
    • Students who reported frequent texting while driving were:
      • Less likely to wear a seatbelt.
      • More likely to ride with a driver who had been drinking.
      • More likely to drink and drive.
 

Prevention

What is being done?

States

  • 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.
  • As of June 2017, 14 states and the District of Columbia had banned drivers from hand-held phone use.
  • 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.
  • Some local governments also have bans on cell phone use and texting while driving.

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.
  • On September 17, 2010, the Federal Railroad Administration banned cell phone and electronic device use of employees on the job.
  • On October 27, 2010, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration enacted a ban that prohibits commercial vehicle drivers from texting while driving.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • In April of 2015, NHTSA began the “U Drive. U Text. U Pay.” campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of distracted driving. NHTSA provides campaign materials for state and local law enforcement: