12 Important Texting and Driving Statistics

by | May 26, 2022 | Defensive Driving

Texting and Driving Statistics: Bad For Everyone

Content Update February 12, 2023

Killed in an instant. Mitchel, an 18-year-old college student returning to school died in a traffic collision. The sun was shining and the roads were clear. The young driver noticed traffic congestion and began to slow his car. He did everything a safe driver was supposed to do on the road.

But, as reported by USAToday, Mitchel’s life ended when another driver slammed into the back of his car. Police believe the speeding driver, distracted by his cell phone, was traveling faster than 80 mph when he hit Mitchel’s car. An avoidable collision that simply should never have happened.

To honor Mitchel’s legacy, his family started a foundation to end distracted driving.

It’s obvious that distracted driving is a problem. More than 3,000 people died in distracted driving-related vehicle accidents in 2020.  And 1 in 5 of those killed in distracted driving-related accidents were not in vehicles. They were walking or riding bikes.

Texting while driving has become such a massive problem that 48 states banned texting and driving.

Texting and driving statistics from the past five years show how prevalent the problem has become.

In 2020, 14% of all injury crashes in the US were caused by distracted driving

A report by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that 1 in 3 drivers knew someone or had a relative who was injured or killed in a car crash. The dangers of sending a text message while driving are real and can lead to serious injury or fatality.

Many drivers involved in distracted driving accidents are between the ages of 15 and 20. In a survey of high school drivers, the CDC found that 39% of the students admitted to texting or emailing while driving. And texting while driving is more common among students who register As and Bs in school compared to those who get Cs, Ds, and Fs.

The study also reveals that drivers who admit to driving while texting are more likely to commit and report other unsafe driving habits including drinking and driving and failing to wear a seatbelt.

In this article, we’ll take an in-depth look at twelve texting and driving statistics to help you better understand the scope of how perilous this action is and what you can do to help improve road safety.


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12 Texting and Driving Statistics

Distracted driving is dangerous and claims thousands of lives each year. There are many common driving mistakes that can put you in danger, but few are as prevalent as distracted driving.

What is distracted driving?

Distracted driving is when the driver’s attention is diverted from the road. There are three primary types of distraction:

  • Visual distractionstake your eyes off the road as you read a message on a billboard or watch a deer run alongside the road and then disappear into the woods.
  • Manual distractionstake your hands off the wheel as you reach for an item or adjust vehicle controls.
  • Cognitive distractionstake your mind off the road as you think about a meeting at work or a birthday party for your child…anything except the task of driving.

Common examples of distracted driving include:

  • eating
  • drinking
  • talking to passengers
  • talking on a cell phone
  • changing the radio station
  • fiddling with the entertainment or navigation system

Anything that distracts your attention from the road before you, even for a second, is considered distracted driving. However, texting is considered the most dangerous distracted driving activity because it involves visual, manual, and cognitive distractions.

Research shows that the act of texting, even for short periods, can still disorient drivers. Each time you look away from the road and then look back, you have to re-orient yourself. That means you have to refocus your vision on the road and notice where any cars, people, or other objects around you are now located.

As a driver, you must process new information you receive each time you look away and be ready to react if changes occur. Maybe a car that was in the next lane just a moment ago suddenly swerves into your lane. Maybe a dog that wasn’t previously in your line of sight bolts into the roadway.

Situations can change in a nanosecond. Faster than your mind can process the change if you are distracted.

Let’s explore several statistics to better illustrate how dangerous texting while driving is.

1. It Takes 5 Seconds to Read the Average Text Message

According to the United States Department of Transportation, it takes 5 seconds to read a text. During those precious seconds that your eyes are off the road, you can drive the length of a football field.

Going by the NFL rule book, a football field is 360 feet. That’s a lot of ground covered without having eyes on it.

Considering how much distance you could cover while distracted by a text message, it leaves ample opportunity for an accident to occur. While you’re busy reading a text message, a small child could chase a ball out into the street, or a car could back out of a driveway. Taking your eyes off the road for as little as five seconds can be deadly.

2. Smartphone App Use Leads to Distracted Driving

Stated in driving reports by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, about 36% of drivers use a smartphone app at a red light or stop sign. More concerning is the 35% of drivers who continue to use the phone or app while driving.

The leading reason for people using a cell phone while driving was for listening to music or a podcast. Around 41.2% of drivers stated they use a smartphone app for this reason.

Many drivers also wear headphones or earbuds while driving, which is another form of distracted driving. By plugging your ears, you are removing your sense of hearing. You could miss the warning horn of another vehicle, or the sirens of oncoming emergency vehicles. The consequences of not hearing sounds could be disastrous and deadly.

While people 35 and under make up the largest section of drivers who interact with apps while behind the wheel, there is a new segment that is quickly growing—rideshare drivers.

A new survey from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reveals that gig workers who shuttle people and packages around town are four times more likely than other drivers to use smartphone apps while driving.

“The explosion of smartphone features and services has not only created new forms of driver distraction, but also a new group of rideshare and delivery drivers whose jobs require them to interact with their phones,” said IIHS President David Harkey in an IIHS report.

3. Texting Increases the Odds of Being in a Car Accident

Drivers who text while driving are 23 times more likely to be involved in a car accident.

In the 5 seconds that you spend reading or writing a text message, you’re leaving yourself wide open to an accident. Since it’s feasible you’re traveling the distance of a football field, it makes ample sense that you’re increasing your risk for a car wreck.

Aside from texting raising the risk for an accident in general, it also triples the odds of your vehicle:

  • going over a curb
  • leaving the road
  • crashing into a tree
  • colliding with a sign


4. Distracted Driving Breaks Down into Three Categories

As we mentioned earlier, distracted driving comes in three different forms:

  • visual
  • manual
  • cognitive

A visual distraction means that your eyes leave the road. If you’re reading a text message or using a smartphone app to turn on music, your eyes are on the phone instead of the road. This is a visual distraction.

When there’s a manual distraction, your hands are off the wheel. There are several ways in which you might be led to have this type of distracted driving. Examples of manual distraction would be if you’re unwrapping a candy bar to eat while driving or rummaging through a purse or backpack for your phone.

Cognitive distraction translates to your mind being preoccupied and not focused on the task of driving. You experience cognitive distraction when you daydream while driving or become too engrossed in conversation with a passenger.

Every day, 9 people die due to distracted driving. Of those involved in a car wreck that survive, over 1,000 of them are injured.

Distracted driving is a serious problem that affects the lives of all involved.

5. Texting While Driving Is More Dangerous Than Intoxication

Texting while you are driving is more dangerous than if you are under the influence of alcohol.

According to the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, you are six times more likely to be in a motor vehicle crash while driving if you’re texting, versus if you were intoxicated.

Texting while driving gives the driver the same response time as a person who has drunk four beers in a single hour.

6. Teens Have Smartphone Addiction

Around 50% of teenagers believe they have a smartphone addiction problem.

When you combine this addiction with this age group’s inexperience at driving, it’s a recipe for disaster. In fact, almost 80% of teens check their smartphones multiple times every hour.

Considering that around 72% of young drivers feel a pressing need to respond right away to a text equals a lot of teens being distracted while driving.

How do you know if your teen is addicted to their electronic devices? There are signs to look for. If your teen would rather spend all day indoors on their computer or smartphone, versus going out to the movies with friends, then there’s probably a problem.

In other parts of the world, internet addiction is a public health threat. However, in the United States, it isn’t yet viewed as a real disorder.

Phone addiction is called one of the largest non-drug addictions humans have ever encountered. Excessive phone use can cause poor sleep patterns, procrastination, headaches, eye strain, bad posture, depression, and stress.

To break free from smartphone addiction, experts recommend:

  • Only use your smartphone at designated times or for designated tasks. For example, only text between 6pm – 7pm.
  • Don’t keep your smartphone on your nightstand. Charge it in another room where you can’t react to message notifications.
  • Remove social media apps from your smart phone. These apps are perhaps the number one contributor to phone addiction. Eliminate the apps and eliminate the temptation to constantly check them

In an interesting turn of events, many teenagers also feel that their parents suffer from smartphone addiction.

7. Car Accidents Are the Leading Cause of Death for Teens

Fatal crashes is the leading cause of death for teenagers in the United States.

Every day, six teenagers die from a car crash. Many of these wrecks were preventable if the teen hadn’t been distracted while driving. This is why it is so important to stress to teenagers to not use the phone while.

In 2020, over 2,000 teens between the ages of 16 and 19 died in a car accident. On average, 2 out of every 3 teens killed in auto collisions were male.

About 300,000 managed to survive their car wreck but were rushed to the hospital to be treated for severe injuries.

8. Many Teenagers Fail to Wear Their Seat Belts

More than half of teens who die in a car accident are not wearing a seat belt.

This shocking figure illustrates how preventable many of these deaths are.

If teens weren’t distracted while driving, the wreck could have been avoided altogether. If a seat belt had been worn at the time of the accident, most teenagers might have been able to walk away with their lives.

It’s important to have a discussion with your teenager before allowing them to drive. Stress the importance of either turning their smartphone off while driving or placing it somewhere out of reach so they won’t be tempted to use it.

Wearing your seat belt is required by law in all states. Be sure to let your teenager know how important it is to use their seat belt at all times.

A seat belt is often the key determining factor in whether someone can survive a severe wreck or not. Even if the car accident is minor, there is still a ticket from a police officer to contend with if no seat belts were worn. A ticket due to a lack of restraints being worn can run you hundreds of dollars.

Most important is preserving your safety. When something as simple as a seat belt might stand between you and death, there’s no excuse for not wearing a restraint.

Before you let your teenager leave the house, try to remind them each time of the importance of buckling up.

9. Teens Who Text Veer Outside of Their Traffic Lane Often

If a teen is texting while driving, then they will spend 10% of their driving time outside of their traffic lane.

A survey conducted by AT&T found that the overwhelming majority of teens agree that texting while driving is dangerous. Despite this acknowledgment, almost half admitted to texting while driving anyway.

Whether it’s a smartphone addiction or an overestimation of their own reaction abilities, texting while driving among teens is a pressing problem to this day.

If a teen is spending ten percent of their time outside of their lane while driving, that’s a high percentage chance of causing an accident. Not only is the teen putting themselves at risk, but they’re also endangering those around them.

10. Many People Surf the Web While Driving

In a digital age where everyone is accustomed to being connected and having a wealth of information and entertainment at their fingertips, it’s clear it is difficult for many people to pry themselves away.

A national survey found that people are reading and responding to emails on their smartphones while they’re driving, or are reading and updating social media posts. More than half of survey respondents admit to seeing someone driving while distracted by their smartphone. People are struggling more than ever to disconnect from the internet.

While the vast majority of drivers admit they’re well aware of the dangers of using their smartphone while driving, many continue to do so anyway. Some estimate they’re careful while texting, while others believe they have a quick reaction time and will be able to avoid an accident.

Yet the statistics speak for themselves. No matter what people believe about themselves, driving while distracted leads to fatal consequences all too often.

11. Failure to Set a Proper Example

Seventy-seven percent of teenagers said that their parents tell them not to text or email while driving, yet then turn around and do it themselves.

The popular saying, “Do what I say, not what I do,” doesn’t set an appropriate example for teenagers. If we hope to reduce the amount of distracted driving that is occurring, parents must learn to lead by example, not word alone.

Of course, we can all do our part to spread the word about the dangers of texting while driving.

Teachers can devote some time during their day to share with students why texting and driving don’t mix. The sooner young people are aware of these dangers, the better chance they will have to make the right decisions when they slide behind a steering wheel.

Employers can also post safety messages in the workplace to remind employees to put their phones away when driving. Companies may even establish safe driver campaigns that reward employees for practicing safe driving techniques.

If the ping of a smartphone puts undue pressure on you to check your smartphone, try storing it somewhere out of reach while driving. If it’s stashed inside the glove box or somewhere in the trunk, the impulse to reach for the device will be curbed.

By resisting the need to read or respond to a text, thousands of lives could be saved each year.

12. There Is Pressure to Respond to a Text or Email

About 9 in 10 teens admit they expect a prompt reply to their text or email. If they don’t hear back within five minutes, many teenagers take it as a sign of being ignored or brushed off.

Because so many teens have this mindset, they themselves feel immense pressure to ensure they respond to incoming alerts at once. It doesn’t matter if they’re busy driving or not, the pressure to keep up with peer expectations is too much to resist.

No text or email is worth losing your life over. Try to have a calm chat with your teenager and gauge whether they feel this pressure as well.

Stress to your family members that expectations like these are unreasonable and do not need to be adhered to. When it means saving lives, a text message or email can wait an additional ten or more minutes before receiving a reply.

You never know, the person on the other end of the text or email may also be driving. By replying to their message, you might be endangering both yourself and the recipient.

Tips to Stay Safe

Focus on driving. Check your texts and emails before you start your vehicle. Put your phone away to eliminate the temptation to check for messages at stop lights. Even though you’re not moving, you still need to be aware of what’s going on around you.

Speak up. If you’re riding in a car where the driver is distracted, say something.  Help them eliminate distractions so they can focus on driving. It may be uncomfortable to point out poor driving habits but speaking up could help save lives.

Understand texting laws. Many states have new laws and penalties that specifically target texting while driving. Know them. Memorize them. And always follow them while driving.

Protect Yourself from Distracted Driving

We hope that these texting and driving statistics helped illustrate to you the perils of driving while distracted. Too many people lose their lives each year due to texting while driving. Though many drivers are aware of the dangers of engaging in texting and driving, most continue to do so anyway.

Our mission at DriveSafe Online is to make the roads safer for everyone. That’s why we created our online defensive driving courses. After all, the most effective vehicle safety device is a prepared driver.

Join 500,000 drivers who use a DriveSafe Online traffic school program to earn an insurance discount, address a traffic ticket, and learn to become a safer driver.

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