Approximately 80% of car accidents are caused by distractions that take place just three seconds before the crash. It's important to bring attention to the concerning statistics on distracted driving as education and awareness are key steps in preventing these incidents.
Sr. Content Editor
Last Updated: 06.02.2023
Drivers in January 2022 averaged 1:35 seconds of distraction, the most in three years. February broke that record with 1:38 seconds of distraction per hour. This high water mark represents a 25.5 percent increase compared to February 2019, and a 30.3 percent increase compared to February 2020, the last month of pre-pandemic driving.In 2020, distraction caused 3,142 road fatalities, which accounted for 8.1% of total road deaths. During daylight hours, there are over 350,000 US drivers who are distracted while driving.
Distracted driving is the cause of 80% of car accidents.
Distracted driving resulting from having other passengers in the car accounts for 5% of traffic deaths.
Adjusting the volume or air conditioning while driving accounts for 2% of traffic fatalities caused by distracted driving.
Losing mental focus on the road accounts for 62% of all cases of distracted driving.
Distracted driving in general rose after the pandemic began, but nighttime driving saw the most significant spike.
After-work “evening” hours, between 6:00 p.m. and 10:59p.m., have been impacted the most.
Before the pandemic in February 2020, drivers who started trips during evening hours were distracted for 1:26 per hour on average.
By April 2020, minutes of distracted driving per hour spiked to 1:56, a 34.7 percent increase.
Over that same time period “late-night” trips (started from 11:00 p.m. to 5:59 a.m.) saw a 40 percent increase in average minutes spent driving distracted.
This translates to from 57 seconds to 1:20 per hour of driving.
Late-night distraction has remained at a high level since.
In February 2022, the average time distracted rose to 1:29 per hour.
Listening to music or podcasts while driving reduces your attention to the road by 40%.
Distracted driving deaths resulting from outside factors, such as people, objects, or events, make up 7% of the total.
Lighting or putting out cigarettes while driving causes only 1% of distracted driving accidents.
Eating or drinking while driving results in 2% of distracted driving accidents.
20% of drivers confess to grooming, such as doing their hair, while driving.
Cell phone use causes 14% of distracted driving deaths.
Driving with children leads parents to take their eyes off the road for an average of 3 minutes and 22 seconds during a 16-minute drive.
This is over one fifth of the total drive time.
53% of drivers believe that in-vehicle infotainment systems, such as touchscreen navigation, are safe to use while driving.
65% of dog owners confess to attending to their pet while driving.
20% of drivers confess to grooming, such as doing their hair, while driving.
When a teenage driver has one passenger, the risk of fatal car accidents doubles. The risk increases five times when there are more than three passengers in the car.
The National Safety Council (NSC) analysis of National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) data finds that 3,142 people died in distraction-affected crashes in 2020. This is an increase of about 1% from 3,119 deaths in 2019.
Distracted driving is responsible for 25% of car crash fatalities.
In 2020, motor vehicle crashes caused by distracted drivers resulted in 3,142 deaths and an estimated 324,652 injuries.
According to the Department of Motor Vehicles, 9 individuals in the United States are fatally impacted daily due to distracted driving.
In 2020, distraction was reported as a factor in 8% of fatal crashes, 14% of crashes resulting in injury, and 13% of all police-reported motor vehicle traffic incidents.
The number of fatalities in motor vehicle traffic crashes in 2019 was 36,096, a decrease of 2% from the 36,835 fatalities in 2018.
According to reports, 6% of drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2020 were distracted at the time of the incident.
The age group with the largest proportion of distracted drivers involved in fatal crashes is 15 to 20 years old, with 7% of drivers in this group reported as distracted.
In 2020, there were 587 fatalities among nonoccupants, such as pedestrians and cyclists, in crashes related to distraction.
In the age group of 15 to 20 years old, 7% (321 out of 4,561) of drivers involved in fatal crashes were reported as distracted at the time of the incident.
Out of all drivers involved in fatal crashes, 8% were aged 15 to 20 years old (4,561 out of 53,890). However, in the category of distracted drivers, this age group accounted for 11% (321 out of 2,968).
Additionally, 15% of all drivers distracted by cell phones in fatal crashes belonged to this age group (54 out of 356).
The 21-24 age group accounted for 9% of drivers involved in fatal crashes, but made up 11% of all distracted drivers and 15% of drivers distracted by cell phones in fatal crashes.
The age group of 25-34 years old made up 22% of drivers involved in fatal crashes, but represented 25% of all distracted drivers and 30% of drivers distracted by cell phones in fatal crashes.
In both distraction-affected fatal crashes and all fatal crashes, the majority of fatalities were motor vehicle occupants, including motorcyclists, at 80% and 81% respectively.
The proportion of passenger fatalities was higher in distraction-affected crashes at 22% compared to all fatal crashes at 16%.
The remaining fatalities were among nonoccupants such as pedestrians and cyclists.
In 2020, distracted drivers were responsible for the deaths of 587 nonoccupants.
In 2020, 72% of distracted drivers involved in fatal crashes were male, which is similar to the proportion of male drivers in all fatal crashes, which was 73%.
One of the most common distractions while driving is the use of phones, particularly calling and texting. The percentage of passenger vehicle drivers talking on handheld phones declined from 2.6% in 2020 to 2.5% in 2021.
Cell phone use is the second leading cause of distracted driving, with 14% of distracted driving fatalities resulting from its use.
An estimated 660,000 drivers use cell phones while driving during daylight hours.
Annually, cell phone use while driving results in 1.6 million crashes.
Texting while driving is six times more dangerous than drunk driving.
Cell phone usage is a factor in 25% of car accidents.
Every day, 11 teens die as a result of texting while driving.
Drivers who talk on the phone are 2.2 times more likely to be involved in a car accident.
16% of iPhone users reported not being distracted while driving, compared to 23% of Android users and 38% of users of other mobile operating systems.
Users of iPhone and Apple Carplay are more than twice as likely as Android users to engage in activities such as video-chatting, using Instagram, streaming shows on Netflix or Hulu, and taking photos and videos while driving.
Ten percent of iPhone users admitted to watching videos on YouTube while driving, compared to 4% of Android users who admitted to the same.
As of June 2017, 15 states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws prohibiting the use of cell phones while driving.
Using an electronic device while driving increases the risk of a collision by a factor of 3.6.
Texting while driving takes your attention away from the road for approximately 5 seconds, during which time you can cover the length of a football field if you're driving at 55 mph.
10% of parents and 20% of teenagers confess to engaging in multiple text conversations while operating a vehicle.
The likelihood of a driver being involved in a crash increases by up to 4 times when talking on a cell phone while driving.
Distracted driving is a serious problem in the United States, especially among young drivers.
In 2019, 9% of fatal crashes involving drivers ages 15-20 were caused by distracted driving.
This is a significantly higher percentage than for older drivers.
Distracted driving is a preventable cause of accidents, and everyone needs to do their part to help reduce this dangerous behavior on the roads.
A 2019 survey found that among U.S. high school students who drove in the past 30 days, 39% texted or emailed while driving on at least one of those days.
Texting or emailing while driving was more common among older students than younger students, and more common among White students (44%) than Black (30%) or Hispanic students (35%).
Texting or emailing while driving was just as common among students with good grades as it was among students with poor grades.
In fact, students who texted or emailed while driving were more likely to report other risky transportation behaviors, like not wearing a seatbelt or riding with a driver who had been drinking.
Drivers in the 21–24 age group made up 9 percent of all drivers in fatal crashes. They were 18 percent of all distracted drivers and 20 percent of drivers distracted by cell phones in fatal crashes.
They were 10 percent of all distracted drivers and 16 percent of drivers distracted by cell phones in fatal crashes.
Drivers in the 25–34 age group made up 21 percent of all drivers in fatal crashes.
However, they were 23 percent of all distracted drivers and 23 percent of drivers distracted by cell phones in fatal crashes.
Drivers in the 35–44 age group made up 16 percent of all drivers in fatal crashes.
The statistics on distracted driving highlight a widespread issue throughout the nation. To demonstrate this point, here are some state-specific distracted driving statistics.
For three consecutive years, New Mexico has held the record for the highest rate of fatalities caused by distracted driving.
The rate in New Mexico is twice as high as Louisiana, which has the second-highest rate in the country.
The two largest states, Texas and California, present a contrast in terms of distracted driving fatalities relative to miles driven.
Texas has a high fatality rate, with 1.2 deaths per billion miles driven, while California has a low rate of 0.35 fatalities per billion miles driven.
On average, South Carolina sees two car accidents caused by distracted driving each hour.
Distracted driving accidents in Oregon resulted in over 23,000 injuries.
In Maryland, there were over 86,000 car accidents caused by distracted driving that resulted in injuries between 2016 and 2020.
Between 2011 and 2016, there was a 918% rise in the number of texting-while-driving citations issued in New York.
Kansas moved down one spot to become the third-worst state in terms of its distracted driving fatality rate from 2019 to 2020.
Kansas still struggles with a high fatality rate despite its strict laws.
In 2016, Arizona authorities issued nearly 16,000 citations and warnings for distracted driving.
Each year, drivers aged 15-19 in Nebraska are involved in 39 car accidents caused by cell phone distraction.
In 2020, distracted driving-related car accidents in Wisconsin rose by 12% compared to the previous year of 2019.
Distracted driving is responsible for causing 23% of serious car accidents in Washington.
Many states have passed laws to combat distracted driving, such as prohibiting texting while driving, enforcing hands-free laws, and limiting the number of passengers allowed for teen drivers
After these projects, observed cell phone use while driving dropped from 4.1% to 2.7% in the Sacramento Valley Region in California.
In Hartford, Connecticut cell phone use while driving fell from 6.8% to 2.9%.
In addition, cell phone use while driving fell from 4.5% to 3.0% in Delaware, and from 3.7% to 2.5% in Syracuse, New York.
Unfortunately, the consequences of distracted driving can be serious.
According to the statistics from 2019, 3,142 people lost their live by distracted driving.
In addition, an estimated 424,000 people sustained injuries in motor vehicle accidents caused by distracted drivers.
Out of these, it is estimated that 424,000 were a result of distraction-affected crashes.
The total number of people injured in traffic accidents that were reported by the police was 2,740,000.
This is approximately 15% of all people injured in traffic accidents.
Furthermore, 28,000 people were specifically injured in crashes caused by cell phone use or other related activities.
They constitute 7% of all people injured in distraction-affected crashes.
The number of people injured in distraction-affected crashes has fluctuated over the past five years.
However the percentage of people injured in these crashes as a proportion of all injured people has remained relatively unchanged.
In 2019, it is estimated that there were 287,000 motor vehicle accidents that were caused by driver distraction.
This accounts for approximately 15% of all injury crashes.
In these distraction-affected crashes, it is believed that 294,000 drivers were distracted at the time of the accidents.
This constitutes 8% of all drivers involved in injury crashes.
In 2019, there were a total of 2.74 million individuals who sustained injuries in motor vehicle accidents on U.S roads.
This figure represents an increase of 1.1% from the previous year in 2018.
According to additional data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), on a daily basis, approximately nine individuals lose their lives and over 1,000 others sustain injuries in motor vehicle accidents caused by distracted drivers.