2019 Texting and Driving Statistics

Distracted DriverSince the advent of the first "smartphones" in 2005, cell phones have become a major feature of modern life. We all have cell phones now. We rarely go anywhere without them and we are constantly talking, texting, surfing or gaming on them (some more than others). The emergence of the cell phone over the last 15 years has brought with it a new safety hazard - distracted driving.

According the CDC, distracted driving caused an average of 9 deaths and 1,000 injuries per day in 2018. The phrase "distracted driving" technically includes any activity that takes attention away from driving - but it has become synonymous with cell phone usage.

How many people die from texting and driving?  No one has this exact number.  

Texting is the Most Dangerous Type of Distracted Driving

According to the CDC there are 3 types of driving distractions:

  • Visual: a distraction that diverts your eyes from the road
  • Manual: something that causes you to take your hands off the wheel
  • Cognitive: anything that takes your mental focus off the road

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has determined that texting while driving is the most dangerous type of distracted driving. This is mostly because texting combines all 3 types of driving distractions at once: visual, manual and cognitive.

Texting and Driving Accident Statistics for 2017-19

The danger posed by distracting driving - particularly texting/emailing - is widely recognized. The 2017 study published by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that 87% of drivers view texting and driving as the most significant hazard on the road. In fact, drivers are more concerned about texting / distracted driving than they are about drunk driving.

  • 52.3 percent of the minors said that they have seen their parents texting and driving in the last year. So the apples are not falling far from the trees. Two out of three parents admit to reading texts while driving.

  • Using a cell phone while driving caused an estimated 1.5 million car accidents in the U.S. in 2018 according to the National Safety Council.

  • The U.S. Department of Transportation reported that cell phone use while driving kills 3-000 to 6,000 people every year.

  • Texting while driving is a contributing cause in 25% of all car accidents - resulting in almost 400,000 physical injuries.

  • Texting while driving causes 5 times as many accidents than drunk driving.

  • A single text results in an average distraction of 5 seconds, during which time a car going 55 mph will travel the length of a football field.

  • As of January 2019, three states -- Arizona, Montana, and Missouri -- insanely do not have laws against texting while driving.

Texting Statistic
Texting Doubles the Risk of an Accident

InfographicA study published by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety in January 2018 attempted to quantify the actual risk increase caused by texting while driving. The study also looked at correlations between texting and particular types of auto accidents. Some of the key findings of this study were:

  • Talking on a cellphone (as opposed to texting) does not significantly increase the chances of getting in an accident.

  • Texting (or similar phone activity) doubles your chances of getting in an accident of any type.

  • Texting triples yours odds of a "road departure crash" (e.g., driving off the road and hitting a tree or sign).

  • Texting increases your chances of rear-ending someone by a multiple of 7.

Texting vs. Drunk Driving

A number of recent studies have suggested that texting and driving may actually be more dangerous than drinking and driving.

  • Drunk driving causes about 10,000 fatalities a year. Texting and driving causes about 3,500 auto accident deaths each year.

  • In 2015, texting and driving caused almost 400,000 auto accident injuries. Drunk driving resulted in just under 300,000.

  • Men are 4 times more likely to drink and drive, but women text and drive more frequently.

  • Texting and driving accidents occur mostly during the morning and afternoon commuting hours. 25% of texting accidents occur between 3-6 pm and 18% occur between 6-9 am. The most common time frame for drunk driving accidents is between 12-3 am.

  • A study conducted by Virginia Tech University concluded that drivers texting and driving are 6 times more likely to result in a car accident compared to drunk driving.

  • This one is mind blowing: As you read this, 660,000 drivers in the U.S. are using or manipulating an electronic device while driving a motor vehicle.

Teen Drivers & Texting

Drivers of all age groups text and drive. However, teens are the most notorious and most dangerous offenders when it comes to texting and driving. Even without cell phones, teenage drivers are more likely to cause an accident compared to more experienced drivers. In fact, auto accidents are the leading cause of accidental deaths among teenagers. The crash rate for teen drivers is twice as high compared to drivers over the age of 20. But a teenager without a smartphone is becoming exceedingly rare. According to a recent e-marketer report 95% percent of individuals between the ages of 14-19 have cell phones and 87% of them are smartphones.

Many teens simply can't help themselves when it comes to texting and driving. Studies have shown that despite being very well aware of the dangers of texting and driving, teens regularly do it anyway.

  • Almost 95% of teenage drivers admitted that texting and driving is very dangerous - but more than 1/3 of those same teens admitted that they do it all the time anyway.

  • Cell phone usage while driving is highest among teenage drivers.

The consequences of texting and driving by teenage drivers are significantly greater compared to any other age group. A teen driver sending a text has become one of the most dangerous things out on the road.

  • A teen driver on a cell phone is 4 times more likely to cause an accident than an adult on their cell phone.

  • Teenagers on cell phones account for 9% of all fatal accidents - despite only accounting for a small percentage of miles driven.

A lot of people are writing now about whether texting and driving kills more people than guns in the United States.  It is easy to understand the allure of this this argument -- distracted driving does kill more guns do.  But it really is an apples and oranges problem, right?  Motor vehicles also save many lives because of all of the economic and non-economic benefits they bring.  Guns are very different, obviously, no matter which side of the issue you take. The greater wisdom is probably to avoid comparing the two. 

State Laws on Cell Phones & Driving

In recent years, the emergence of texting and cell phone use while driving has prompted most states to enact new laws. Texting while driving has been completely banned in all but 3 of the 50 states. Another 16 states also prohibit talking on a cell phone without a hands-free device. Do people ignore these laws? Of course. Most do. But texting-while-driving bans still do reduce injuries.

Most states impose further restrictions on even hands-free cell phone use by younger drivers. Use this link for a table of all state laws on texting and cell phone use while driving.

Relevant Texting and Driving Studies 

Many of you reading this are writing a paper on the risks associated with texting and driving. Good. The more information that is out in the public domain the better.  Here are some of the best epidemiological studies and data on the risks and consequences of texting while driving: 

  • U.S. Department of Transportation: Distracted Driving in Fatal Crashes, 2017, DOT HS 812 700 (April 2019). 
  • Rumschlag, G, et. al:  The effects of texting on driving performance in a driving simulator: The influence of driver age. Accident Analysis and Prevention 74:145-149, 2015
  • Issar, N., et. al: The link between texting and motor vehicle collision frequency in the orthopaedic trauma population, J Inj Violence Res. 2013 Jun; 5(2): 95–100.
  • Owens, D., et. al:  Driver performance while text messaging using handheld and in-vehicle systems. Accident Analysis & Prevention,  43, pp. 939-947 (2011).
  • Caird J., et. al:  A meta-analysis of the effects of cell phones on driver performance. Accid Anal Prev. 2008 Jul;40(4):1282–93.

Contact Miller & Zois About Distracted Driving Accidents

If you have been injured in a car accident caused by someone who was one their phone, contact the personal injury attorneys at Miller Zois to find out if you might be entitled to legal compensation. Call us at 800-553-8082 or click here for a free online consultation.

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