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Although 48 states have texting and driving laws in place, many American drivers still take part in this dangerous practice daily. When driving during the day, there are an estimated 354,415 drivers holding a phone to their ear, and even more using them while driving, according to the NHTSA. While these figures have decreased from 2019 to 2.6% and 2.8%, respectively, in 2020, the CDC estimates that around 3,000 people die each year from texting and driving and other distracted driving practices. Use these texting and driving statistics as a reminder and to encourage others to avoid driving distracted.
- 660,000 of drivers are using their cell phones while operating a vehicle at any moment in the day. (NHTSA)
- 60% of teens 18 and older admit to emailing or texting and driving compared to 16% of 15- and 16-year-olds (CDC)
- Texting while driving has the same effect on your driving reaction time as if you had consumed four beers in a single hour. (Drivesafeonline.org)
- Texting distracts you long enough to travel the length of an entire football with your eyes off the road, driving at 55 mph. (NHTSA)
- 35% of teens admit to texting and driving, even though 94% of them understand the dangers. (AAA)
- 1 in 4 teens admit to responding to at least one text every time they drive. (AAA)
- 10% of parents and 20% of teens admit to having multi-text conversations while driving. (AAA)
- Teens who text while driving spend an average of 10% of their driving time outside of traffic lanes. (Drivesafeonline.org)
- Between 2012 and 2019, nearly 26,004 people died in crashes involving a distracted driver. During this time, distraction-related fatalities increased by 10%. (S. Department of Transportation)
- Almost 9% of all fatalities are linked to distracted driving. (U.S. DOT)
- 16- to 24-year-old drivers have been observed using handheld electronic devices while driving at higher rates than older drivers have since 2007. (U.S. DOT)
- 9% of drivers 15 to 19 years old involved in 2019 fatal crashes were reported as distracted. (U.S. DOT)
- In 2019, there were 566 nonoccupants (pedestrians, bicyclists, and others) killed in crashes involving a distracted driver. (U.S. DOT)
Texting and driving deaths per year
How many people die from texting and driving per year? About 400 fatal crashes happen each year as a direct result of texting and driving. That number increases to over 30,000 when you consider distracted driving as a whole, according to the NHTSA. While texting and driving accidents are decreasing in recent years, overall fatal crashes due to distracted driving are on the rise.
In the most recent available data, you can see that texting and driving deaths were on the rise in 2013, peaked in 2015 and 2016 and dropped in 2017. There was a sharp drop in 2018 and then a small spike in 2019.
|Texting and driving deaths
What are the dangers of texting and driving?
The United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) says that it takes about five seconds to read a text. During that time, you drive about the length of a football field at around 55mph, which is 360 feet — quite a long way to have your eyes off the road.
The issue is not just the momentary lapse in attention, but also the additional time it takes for your eyes to reorient to the road and the other cars around you. Once a driver uses their phone, it can take up to 27 seconds for the mental distraction to wear off, according to the AAA Foundation. This is known as the “hangover effect.”
Teens and young drivers are especially susceptible to the dangers of texting and driving when they have fewer years of experience under their belt. This inexperience, coupled with a lack of advanced driving skills, can equate to more accidents, and sadly, more fatalities amongst this age group.
Other drivers are not the only ones that you risk hurting on the road. The NHTSA reports that, in 2019, 723 passengers, 462 pedestrians and 77 bicyclists were all killed by distracted driving. The age group with the highest rate of drivers causing a fatal crash was under 20 at 9%, followed by 7% in the 25 to 34 age group and 6% in both the 21 to 24 and 75 and older age groups.
The history of texting and driving
Texting capabilities were not introduced until the early 1990s, but it has gradually become a dangerous and even fatal distraction for some. Take a trip down memory lane from the early days of texting to the current trends we see today in nearly every cell phone user.
Texting was not very common when it was first introduced in 1993. While capabilities were limited and nothing like what we see today, it was the beginning of a dangerous trend.
In 1997, the first phone equipped with a keyboard was introduced, making texting easier and more “convenient.”
Texting was finally available across all networks in 1999. At the time, phone plans typically came with limited talk time. College kids began taking advantage of the quick and inexpensive option of texting.
There are several reasons why texting has really taken off. It’s a faster method of communication that offers the privacy of a phone call without the same time and attention demand. It’s also cheaper. Cell phone users quickly found that their providers were more generous with text message allotments than they were minutes. To stay within their plans, subscribers began relying on texting as a primary and more affordable means of communication.
The early 2000’s
Texting took off in the early 2000s, with over 250 billion text messages sent worldwide by 2002. In 2007, Americans sent more texts in a month than they made in monthly calls for the first time in history.
That same year, GPS navigation became mainstream, giving drivers another distraction on the road. To program an address, it takes approximately 40 seconds, and another 13 seconds to refocus on driving. This makes using a GPS as dangerous or even more so than texting and driving.
Texting and driving is still a problem, with 39% of high schoolers admitting to texting and driving behind the wheel. Over the years, cell phone use has changed with the sharp increase in social media platforms available.
For instance, TikTok challenges and users posting videos while they’re driving has increased cell phone usage. Of people aged 18-29, 96% have a smartphone and their usage of it has increased over time, leading to the highest dependency of all age groups.
As much as 72% of Americans use social media, with 84% of users in the 18-29 age group. Facebook, SnapChat and Instagram are the most commonly used platforms, with over half checking the platforms daily. Teens between 15-18 spend about 7.5 hours daily in front of screens, with close to three-in-ten adult Americans online “almost constantly.”
Safe driving technology
Modern technology is increasing the options for safer communication. Apps like DriveMode sense how fast a person is going, silencing text and phone alerts above 15 mph when a person is assumed to be in a car. Other apps allow drivers to compete against each other for the safest driving habits, or earn insurance discounts for reducing their risk on the road through telematics programs.
Most cell phones will now read your texts aloud to you with a simple prompt of “read my text messages,” and most keyboards now offer a voice-to-text tool that allows users to speak their texts instead of typing them. Keep in mind that voice-to-text technology can still distract you from the road.
Risk factors of texting and driving
All age groups are guilty of texting and driving, but data from the NHTSA shows that some groups are far more active than others.
Drivers between the ages of 25 and 34 far exceed the usage of older adults, with the 35-44 and 15-20 age groups also showing greater cell phone use while driving. The risk of texting and driving begins to decrease after 45, showing that drivers ages 45 years and up are more responsible on the road and less likely to end up in a car crash due to texting and driving.
2019 Fatal Crashes by Age Group
|% of Drivers Using Cell Phones
The CDC offers some additional insight into how frequently teenagers use their phones behind the wheel. Its 2019 report studies how frequently teens use their phones to email or text behind the wheel. Data from 2013 to 2019 shows a slight decrease, though it is small enough that the CDC shows no change in trend.
|Emailed while driving
The consequences of texting and driving
Texting while driving is considered a moving traffic violation. Depending on where you live, texting while driving may also be considered a Class B or Class C criminal misdemeanor.
Currently, almost every state has some kind of law that addresses texting and driving or handheld use. Many states have looked to financial penalties as a reasonable consequence for texting and driving. Penalties range from $20 to $500, depending on the state, but in some states like Alaska and Iowa, fines can reach as high as $1,000 and mean a misdemeanor offense.
- Points on your driving record
- Suspension of your driver’s license
- Revocation of driving privileges
- Mandatory driver safety courses
- Vehicle impoundment
When bodily injury is involved, offenders of texting and driving may also face jail or prison time. Penalties vary, but commercial drivers and school bus drivers are commonly held to stricter penalties due to the public nature of their positions. Consequences heighten in severity when you have repeated offenses.
Texting and driving laws state by state
Laws vary by state, so it’s crucial to review the specific texting and driving laws that affect your area. This is a comprehensive, state-by-state listing of current U.S. texting and driving laws from the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA).
State Handheld Ban Type of Law Text Messaging Ban Type of Law Alabama 16- and 17-year-old drivers holding license less than 6 months X Primary Alaska X X Primary Arizona X Primary, drivers under 18 X Primary Arkansas X Primary: 18-20 years; Secondary: school and work zones X Primary California X Primary X Primary Colorado Primary X Primary Connecticut X Primary X Primary Delaware X Primary X Primary District of Columbia X Primary X Primary Florida Primary: school and work zones X Primary Georgia X Primary X Primary Guam X Primary X Primary Hawaii X Primary X Primary Idaho X X Primary Illinois X Primary: 19 and younger X Primary Indiana X Primary: driver under 21 X Primary Iowa X Primary Kansas X Primary Kentucky X Primary Louisiana X Primary: drivers in school zones, learner or intermediate license X Primary Maine X Primary X Primary Maryland X Primary X Primary Massachusetts X Primary X Primary Michigan X Primary Minnesota X Primary X Primary Mississippi X Primary Missouri X Primary Montana Nebraska X Secondary Nevada X Primary X Primary New Hampshire X Primary X Primary New Jersey X Primary X Primary New Mexico X Primary New York X Primary X Primary North Carolina X Primary North Dakota X Primary Ohio X Secondary, Primary under 18 Oklahoma X Primary: learner or intermediate license X Primary Oregon X Primary X Primary Pennsylvania X Primary Puerto Rico X Primary X Primary Rhode Island X Primary X Primary South Carolina X Primary South Dakota X Primary, Secondary for learner’s and intermediate licensed Tennessee X Primary X Primary Texas X Primary: school crossing zones and on public school property only X Primary Utah X Primary Vermont X Primary X Primary Virgin Islands X Primary X Primary Virginia X Primary X Primary Washington X Primary X Primary West Virginia X Primary X Primary Wisconsin X Primary: highway construction zones X Primary Wyoming X Primary
How texting and driving impacts car insurance rates
Car insurance premiums are all based on risk, calculated for each individual based on a specific set of rate factors that determine how much you pay for your coverage each year. This includes everything from where you live and the kind of car you drive to your credit score (in most states), driving history and claims record.
It’s typically a good idea to shop and compare car insurance quotes each year to find the best car insurance provider for you. Car insurance can get particularly pricey when you have a texting and driving offense on your driving record, so be sure to also consider the cheapest car insurance companies in your state to find a policy that’s affordable for you.
North Carolina is one example of how distracted driving, including texting and driving, impacts rates. The North Carolina Rate Bureau, who represents the insurance companies operating in the state, requested an average 7.6% rate increase in 2019. The North Carolina insurance commissioner approved an average increase of 1.6%, which began in October 2019. An ongoing increase in the rate of accidents due distracted driving contributed to the increase request.
Though North Carolina has since banned texting while driving, it has yet to pass a handheld ban. The Hands Free NC Act was first introduced in 2019 and then again in 2021, though it has been shelved until 2022. The Act would make it illegal to use the phone while “supported by the body,” which would include using your shoulder to talk on the phone, for example. Using social media, taking videos and other actions would also be banned.
How to prevent texting and driving
Governments and organizations can do their best to deter the practice with harsh penalties and required driver education, but the truth is that it is a personal habit that you have to commit to breaking yourself. The easiest and simplest way to prevent texting and driving is don’t text and drive.
It’s easier said than done, but these are some tips to help you stop texting and driving when you are behind the wheel.
Texting and driving doesn’t just mean sending an errant text while you’re cruising down the road. Instead, it’s become a broad term used to describe a number of different behaviors involving your cell phone. Texting and driving can also refer to emailing, calling or using social media like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or TikTok.
Check your messages and respond if necessary before driving. If you expect an immediate response, let the recipient know you’re driving now and will get back to them when you are at your destination.
You can’t use your phone if you can’t reach it, so put it in the glove box, the backseat or even the trunk, so you are not tempted to reach for it while you’re driving.
Whether you use your phone’s navigation or your car’s GPS, be sure to prepare and review your directions before you depart. It can be very dangerous to fumble with directions and drive in traffic at the same time, easily leading to an accident. Instead, take a minute to bring up your directions before you leave so you can have a smooth journey ahead.
Today, many phone manufacturers help deter texting and driving by offering a “Do Not Disturb” or DriveMode function. This function sets up a quiet mode, silencing incoming notifications while the feature is enabled. You will still receive messages, but they are held for later review once you’re done driving. You can sometimes enable these settings to send an automated text response to calls or incoming messages that you are driving and will answer later.
This steering wheel cover uses revolutionary technology to detect common behaviors associated with distracted driving and send alerts to drivers in real-time.
Don’t text behind the wheel when others are in your vehicle and refuse to respond to messages when you know a loved one is driving. For parents, this is essential with teen drivers present.
Parents have the combined role of both educator and enforcer at home, so it’s critical that parents take an active role in their family’s safety. Be sure to properly educate your children on the dangers of texting behind the wheel, including sharing texting and driving facts and statistics. You can also bring it up in conversation with friends to spread awareness of the risks associated with this activity.
Apps to prevent texting and driving
Some apps are designed specifically to help drivers on the road and potentially reduce texting and driving habits.
|To encourage responsible cell phone use, AT&T offers its DriveMode app for both Android and iOS. This app can detect when you’re in motion, sending an automated reply that you’re driving and will respond later. Bilingual capabilities for both English and Spanish are available, and parents especially love the additional security features, which gives you insight into your child’s usage and whether the app is even enabled.
|Down for the Count
|Turn safe driving into a game with this fun app. Set a safe driving goal, and then get your family and friends involved by asking them to sponsor you. The app will track your driving habits and report back on what you are doing well and areas where you can improve. Once you reach your goal, you can cash in your winnings. Prizes are delivered via a gift card of your choosing, with available options from your favorite restaurant, retail and financial providers.
|Sometimes, we don’t even think to check our phones until the flash of a new notification piques our curiosity and we fall victim to temptation. LifeSaver quietly works in the background of your phone, sensing when you are in movement and automatically silencing all incoming notifications. Even if you try to use your phone while you are in motion, all you will receive in response is a locked screen until you are finished driving. In the meantime, you can still receive calls and use your phone as a passenger.
|Mojo is another app allowing you to collect rewards for practicing safe driving habits. Earn a point per minute where you don’t engage while driving, and use those points to win prizes. Get more points for inviting friends and competing to see who is the safest driver.
|Earn rewards for safe driving, which can be cashed in once you rack up points. MOTOVATE silences notifications while driving to remove the temptation. You can create a team with friends or family for further motivation and accountability.
|This App Saves Lives
|Save lives and earn great rewards from your favorite brands simply by staying off your phone while driving. It encourages users to choose to not use your phone for anything other than navigation, music or hands-free calls. As you do this, you earn points which are redeemable for many different rewards like Insomnia Cookies, Urban Outfitters and others.
|This app will score you based on your driving practices after logging each trip, noting potential distracted driving moments. Family members can share locations, review trip history and compare driving scores.
With virtually the entire country having banned texting while driving, the simple solution is: don’t text and drive. Unfortunately, the simplest solution is sometimes the hardest. By using apps and practicing safe driving habits, you can break the cycle of distracted driving. Avoid having your phone within arm’s reach if you cannot resist temptation. If you use your phone for GPS, set it before driving and put on Do Not Disturb to silence notifications until you safely reach your destination. These texting and driving facts and statistics can serve as a reminder for why avoiding distracted driving is not only safe for you, but others on the road.