How many people die from texting and driving?
It only takes a second, but it can have life-long repercussions. Texting and driving may seem innocent enough (and it's certainly tempting to do), but every year thousands of faultless drivers and passengers are killed due to the negligence of other drivers. As a form of distracted driving, texting while driving causes the driver to take their focus from the road and onto their hand-held device. Even while at a stoplight, this behavior can be dangerous, as drivers need to maintain total focus in order to drive safely.
14% of all fatal car crashes involve the improper use of a cellphone while driving, according to recent reports. Along with data from the NHTSA, the CDC, the NSC, and The Zebra's own proprietary data, we can further investigate the widespread problem of texting and driving.
Table of contents:
- Texting and driving in 2020
- Texting and driving in 2019
- Death statistics due to texting and driving
- Texting and driving laws
- Texting and driving vs. drinking and driving
- Texting while driving as distracted driving behavior
- Dangers of a texting and driving ticket to insurance
- FAQs about texting while driving behavior
In early 2020, The Zebra, the nation's leading insurance comparison website, launched a new survey to identify awareness around texting and driving behavior patterns and beliefs in drivers in the U.S. Using similar benchmarks and questions from a 2019 survey also by The Zebra, the results have shifted more to a general knowledge that texting while driving is actually very dangerous.
- 15.6% of young drivers (ages 18-24) have admitted to texting while driving and 20% of them claim to be "not familiar at all" with their state's texting while driving laws. This is compared with 12.2% who also reported as being "not at all familiar" with state laws.
- 49% of all respondents believe texting and driving is illegal in all states.
Clearly, despite younger drivers will to text while driving, they are not the only victims in a lack of knowledge in public policy. Young drivers are aware they do not know the state law and are willing to admit it.
Much of the data reflected startling assumptions around distracted driving behaviors, not just texting on a cell phone while driving.
- Only 9.5% of respondents labeled using GPS apps on your phone as being more dangerous than simply texting, and over half (53.5%) believe using GPS apps is less dangerous.
- Nearly 60% of respondents do not see talking on the phone as being more dangerous than texting and driving. 9.9% claim it is more dangerous.
When it came to the perception of one's ability to multitask, there was a notable difference between millennials and boomers. Confidence in tasks, like texting while driving, is disparate between the generation of mobile phones versus landlines.
- 29.8% of millennials (age groups 25-34) believe they multitask moderately well, while 20.3% of the respondents in that age group claim they multitask extremely well.
- 33.9% of the boomer age group (55-65+) saw multitasking as a task they do moderately well, while only 13.8% believe they can multitask extremely well.
The Zebra conducted a national survey of drivers to determine their perception of texting and driving.
- 38% of respondents (18-24 age group) rated their knowledge of their state’s own laws about texting & driving as “very familiar.”
55% of these same respondents thought it was illegal to text while driving in all 50 states.
Young drivers reported feeling well-informed regarding their state’s texting and driving laws. However, the group’s responses showed most young drivers incorrectly assumed texting and driving had been outlawed across the United States.
This indicates a knowledge gap among young drivers, especially those who live in states with strict texting and driving laws:
- 36% of respondents (aged 18-24) admitted to texting while driving.
- Of those who admitted to texting while driving, 51% said they were “very” or “extremely” familiar with their state’s texting and driving laws.
- 48% of respondents said they thought driving under the influence of alcohol was more dangerous than texting and driving, though both behaviors can cause fatal car accidents.
- 48% of those surveyed said they thought driving under the influence of alcohol was about as dangerous as texting and driving.
- Young drivers who admitted to texting while driving, or reading a text message while driving, were nearly twice as likely to continue to engage in cell phone use (including reading and sending text messages) than were other respondents, thereby doubling their chances of more than once getting into an accident.
Using a GPS and sending a text message require similar behaviors and similar use of a device (including a hands-free devices or smartphone). But the use of a GPS device is more widely accepted as a benign behavior, compared to texting — despite evidence that both behaviors lead to more car accidents and instances of driver distraction.
- 60% of respondents said they were likely to use a GPS app while driving.
- Only 7% of respondents who said they were likely to use GPS apps while driving also indicated they thought it was more dangerous than using a cell phone to text.
The survey showed a knowledge gap among young adult drivers who feel well-informed about the law and the law enforcement, aware of their ability to handle multiple tasks while distracted, and the realistic possibility for safe driving while distracted.
- 14% of fatal crashes involved the use of cell phones.
- 14% of distracted driving deaths in driving accidents were attributed specifically to cell phone use, as opposed to other forms of distracted driving.
- In 2016, almost four thousand people were killed due to the actions of a distracted driver.
- 4,637 people died in car crashes in 2018 due to cell phone use and electronic device use.
The following data is a replication of a similar distracted driving statistics table found on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration'sTraffic Safety Facts Research Notes from 2016.
|Distracted Driving Deaths||3,328||3,154||3,179||3,477|
|All Motor Vehicle Deaths||33,782||32,894||32,744||35,092|
|Distracted Driving Injuries||421,000||424,000||431,000||391,000|
|All Motor Vehicle Injuries||2,362,000||2,313,000||2,338,000||2,443,000|
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- Fatalities involving texting while driving comprised 9% of all fatal crashes nationwide.
- 7% of drivers are using cell phones (including making a phone call) at any given time.
- Texting while driving increases by 400% a driver’s time spent with their eyes off the road.
- The use of a cell phone while driving caused an estimated 1.5 million car crashes in the U.S. in 2017.
- Including the cost to people's lives, these crashes were responsible for $129 billion — or 15 percent — of the overall societal damage caused by motor vehicle crashes. This number only goes up after your primary offense.
|State||Hand-held ban||All cellphone ban||Texting ban||Enforcement|
|Alabama||No||Drivers age 16 and 17 who have held an intermediate license for less than 6 months.||All drivers||Primary|
|Arizona||Yes||School bus drivers; learner's permits and provisional license holders for six months||All drivers||Primary (school bus drivers); secondary (young drivers)|
|Arkansas||Drivers ages 18-20; schools zones; highway work zones||school bus drivers; drivers younger than 18||All drivers||Primary (school bus drivers); secondary (young drivers, drivers in school/work zones)|
|California||All drivers||School/transit bus drivers; drivers younger than 18||All drivers||primary (hand held/texting), secondary (young drivers)|
|Colorado||No||Drivers younger than 18||All drivers||Primary|
|Connecticut||All drivers||School bus drivers; learner's permits; driver's younger than 18||All drivers||Primary|
|Delaware||All drivers||School bus drivers; learner's permit and intermediate license||All drivers||Primary|
|Georgia||All drivers||School bus drivers; drivers younger than 18||All drivers||Primary|
|Hawaii||All drivers||Drivers younger than 18||All drivers||Primary|
|Illinois||All drivers||School bus drivers; learner's permit holders younger than 19; drivers younger than 19||All drivers||Primary|
|Indiana||No||Drivers under the age of 21||All drivers||Primary|
|Iowa||No||Learner's permit hand intermediate license holders||All drivers||Primary; for all offenses|
|Kansas||No||Learner's permit hand intermediate license holders||All drivers||Primary|
|Kentucky||No||School bus drivers; drivers younger than 18||All drivers||Primary|
|Louisiana||No||School bus drivers; learner's permit hand intermediate license holders; drivers younger than 18||All drivers||Primary|
|Maine||All drivers||Learner's permit hand intermediate license holders||All drivers||Primary|
|Maryland||All drivers||Learner's permit hand intermediate license holders under 18; school bus drivers||All drivers||Primary|
|Massachusetts||Local options||School/passenger bus drivers; drivers younger than 18||All drivers||Primary|
|Michigan||Local options||Level 1 or 2 license holders||All drivers||Primary|
|Minnesota||Yes||School bus drivers; learner's permit/provisional license holders for 12 months||All drivers||Primary|
|Mississippi||No||School bus drivers||All drivers||Primary|
|Missouri||No||No||Drivers 21 or younger||Primary|
|Nebraska||No||Learner's permit/ intermediate license holders younger than 18||All drivers||Secondary|
|Nevada||All drivers||No||All drivers||Primary|
|New Hampshire||All drivers||Drivers younger than 18||All drivers||Primary|
|New Jersey||All drivers||School bus drivers; learner's permit/ intermediate license holders||All drivers||Primary|
|New Mexico||Local option||Learner's permit/ intermediate license holders||All drivers||Primary|
|New York||All drivers||No||All drivers||Primary|
|North Carolina||No||Drivers younger than 18; school bus drivers||All drivers||Primary|
|North Dakota||No||Drivers younger than 18||All drivers||Primary|
|Ohio||Local option||Drivers younger than 18||All drivers||Primary (drivers younger than 18); secondary (all drivers)|
|Oklahoma||learner's permit/intermediate license holders; school bus/public transit drivers||School bus/public transit drivers||All drivers||Primary|
|Oregon||All drivers||Drivers younger than 18||All drivers||Primary|
|Pennsylvania||Local options||No||All drivers||Primary|
|Rhode Island||All drivers||School bus drivers; drivers younger than 18||All drivers||Primary|
|South Carolina||No||No||All drivers||Primary|
|South Dakota||No||Learner's permit/intermediate license holders||All drivers||Secondary|
|Tennessee||Yes||Learner's permit/intermediate license holders; school bus drivers||All drivers||Primary|
|Texas||Drivers in school crossing zones||School bus drivers; drivers younger than 18||All drivers||Primary|
|Utah||Special considerations*||Drivers under the age of 18||All drivers||Primary (texting); secondary (talking on a hand-held device)|
|Vermont||All drivers||Drivers younger than 18||All drivers||Primary|
|Virginia||No||Drivers younger than 18; school bus drivers||All drivers||Primary (all drivers); secondary (drivers younger than 18)|
|Washington||All drivers||Learner's permit/intermediate license holders||All drivers||Primary|
|West Virginia||All drivers||Learner's permit/intermediate license holders under 18||All drivers||Primary|
|Wisconsin||No||Learner's permit/intermediate license holders under 18||All drivers||Primary|
|Washington DC||All drivers||Learner's permit holders; school bus drivers||All drivers||Primary|
These and additional statistics cited here are from national sources such as the Federal Communications Commission and Edgar Synder & Associates.
- Texting while driving is six times more likely to cause a car accident than drunk driving.
- Men are about four times more likely to drink and drive, but women text and drive more frequently.
- Drunk driving causes about 10,000 fatal crashes and traffic fatalities a year.
- Using a cell phone while driving, whether it’s a hand-held or hands-free device, delays a driver’s reaction time by as much as having a blood alcohol concentration at the legal limit of .08%.
More than half of respondents who admitted to texting while driving in The Zebra's 2018 survey have been exposed to AT&T's "It Can Wait" campaign and the dangers of distracted driving, but continue to engage in such behaviors. The Department of Transportation hasadditional dataon this phenomenon.
- Drivers aged 20 to 29 were the most likely to report using a cell phone while driving.
- 40% of teen drivers said they have been in a motor vehicle when the driver used a cell phone in a way that cause a car accident.
- Surfing the web is another form of distracted driving. Approximately 19% of drivers — including teens — engage in this behavior.
- Nearly one-third of older drivers (aged 18-64) admitted to being active text and email message senders.
In 2020, getting caught texting or otherwise using your phone while driving will raise your insurance rate by an average of 23% ($356) — and in some states more than 63%. The total cost to your insurance — the rate impact on your policy for three years — for a texting-while-driving violation is $1,0731.
- Insurance penalties for distracted driving have grown by nearly 8,000%.
- As of late 2017, insurers in all states penalized distracted drivers. In 2011, insurers in only 10 states raised rates after a distracted driving citation.
- This rate can double if you receive another ticket after your primary offense.
Texting and driving violations by state
|State||$ Increase||% Increase|
|District of Columbia||$262.81||19.01%|
Texting and driving car insurance violations in 2019
A ticket for distracted driving — sending a text message or using your cell phone while driving — raised a driver’s car insurance rates by 0.2% in 2011, costing the driver less than $3 per year, on average. Now, the same violation raises rates by 16% — or $226 per year.Across the country, penalties for distracted drivers range from just $2.51 (New York) to $681 (Michigan). In some cities, the penalty nears $2,000.
Please follow here for the methodology behind the acquisition of these rates.
Why is driving and texting dangerous?
Answering a text distracts a driver for approximately five seconds. At 55 miles per hour, that is enough time to travel the length of a football field. In 2017, using a cellphone while driving caused an estimated 1.5 million car crashes.
What are the effects of texting while driving?
Distracted driving is extremely dangerous and can result in accidents and devastating injuries. Your insurance premiums can also be affected, increasing 23%, or $356, on average.
How do police know if you are texting while driving?
Police officers typically pull drivers over for swerving or odd driving patterns. They will then ask if you were paying attention to the road or something else. While they could also ask to view your cellphone usage data, they would need a warrant to do so.
Who is most likely to text and drive?
Drivers aged 20 to 29 are most likely to report using a cell phone while driving.
Got a ticket for texting while driving? Compare now for a lower rate on your car insurance premium!
This study was conducted for The Zebra using Google Consumer Surveys. The sample consisted of no less than 1,000 completed responses per question. Post-stratification weighting has been applied to ensure an accurate and reliable representation of the total population. This survey was conducted in February 2020.
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