Distracted Driving

Each day in the United States, more than 9 people are killed and more than 1,060 people are injured in crashes that are reported to involve a distracted driver.1

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.


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.2


Distracted driving activities include things like using a cell phone, texting, and eating. Using in-vehicle technologies (such as navigation systems) can also be sources of distraction. While any of these distractions can endanger the driver and others, texting while driving is especially dangerous because it combines all three types of distraction.2

How big is the problem?

In 2010,

nearly one in five crashes (18%) in which someone was injured involved distracted driving.

In June 2011,

more than 196 billion text messages were sent or received in the US, up nearly 50% from June 2009.

In 2011,

3,331 people were killed in crashes involving a distracted driver, compared to 3,267 in 2010. An additional, 387,000 people were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving a distracted driver in 2011, compared to 416,000 people injured in 2010.

What are the risk factors?

Some activities-such as texting-take the driver's attention away from driving more frequently and for longer periods than other distractions.
Younger, inexperienced drivers under the age of 20 may be at increased risk; they have the highest proportion of distraction-related fatal crashes.
Texting while driving is linked with drinking and driving or riding with someone who has been drinking among high school students in the United States, according to a CDC study that analyzed self-report data from the 2011 national Youth Risk Behavior Survey. Students who reported engaging in risky driving behaviors said that they did so at least once in the 30 days prior to the survey.

Talking on a cell phone while driving

  • Nearly half of all U.S. high school students aged 16 years or older text or email while driving.
  • Students who text while driving are nearly twice as likely to ride with a driver who has been drinking and five times as likely to drink and drive than student who don't text while driving.
  • Students who frequently text while driving are more likely to ride with a drinking driver or drink and drive than students who text while driving less frequently.5

The Dangers of Distracted Driving

  • texting

    One text takes a driver's eyes off the road for about 4.6 seconds:

    At 55-mph, that's like driving an entire football field blindfolded. If this results in reckless driving, insurance rates go up more than a first-time DWI.


    During a 30-minute commute, the average driver plays music for 21 minutes.

    A car radio can easily reach 95 decibels, the same volume as a noisy lawn mower. This sound level regularly causes hearing damage and reaction time slows 20%.


    8% of parents said they had caused an accident because of a crying child.

    The average parent takes their eyes off the road for a staggering 3 minutes and 22 seconds during a 16-min trip.


    82% of pets ride in cars, often unrestrained.

    In a 55-mph crash, a 20-pound dog yields a crash force of 1100 pounds ? the weight of an adult cow.


    More than 8 in 10 people eat or drink while driving.

    While taking a drink, drivers were 18% more likely to swerve into a neighboring lane.

    The most dangerous item: Coffee.


    In a simulation, cell phone talkers got in more accidents than those driving drunk.

    It's no wonder - talking on a cell phone, even hands-free, slows reaction time by 26%.


    Women applying makeup while driving cause 500,000 crashes every year in the U.K.

    If ticketed for "careless driving", you could see car insurance jump by 16% ? roughly $220/year.


    Of those who own a GPS, 41% set it while the car is in motion.

    In California, it?s even illegal to check smartphone maps. If you do, it could result in a $160 ticket.



  1. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Facts and Statistics. Available from http://www.distraction.gov/content/get-the-facts/facts-and-statistics.htmlExternal Web Site Icon. Accessed May 23, 2013</li>
  2. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, September 2010. Publication no. DOT-HS-811-379. Available from http://www.distraction.gov/content/get-the-facts/index.htmlExternal Web Site Icon. Accessed May 23, 2013.
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Mobile Device Use While Driving ? United States and Seven European Countries, 2011. MMWR 2013 / 62(10);177-182. http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6210a1.htm?s_cid=mm6210a1_w</li>
  4. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Policy Statement and Compiled Facts on Distracted Driving. Washington, DC: US Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2011. Available from: http://www.nhtsa.gov/External Web Site Icon. Accessed May 23, 2013.
  5. Olsen EO, Shults RA, Eaton DK. Texting while driving and other risky motor vehicle behaviors among US high school students. Pediatrics. 2013;131(6):e1708-e1715. http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2013/05/08/peds.2012-3462.abstractExternal Web Site Icon</li>
  6. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Regulations. Available from: http://www.distraction.gov/content/dot-action/regulations.htmlExternal Web Site Icon. Accessed May 23, 2013.
  7. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Limiting the Use of Wireless Communication Devices. Washington DC: US Department of Transportation, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, 2011. Available from: http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/External Web Site Icon. Accessed May 23, 2013.