You can visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administrationexternal icon (NHTSA) website for more information on how data on motor vehicle crash deaths are collected and the limitations of distracted driving data.
Who is most at risk for distracted driving?
Young adult and teen drivers
In the U.S. in 2018:
Twenty-five percent of the distracted drivers involved in fatal crashes were young adults aged 20–29.1
Drivers aged 15-19 were more likely to be distracted than drivers aged 20 and older, among drivers in crashes where someone died. Among these drivers, eight percent of drivers aged 15 to 19 were distracted at the time of the crash.1
Nine percent of all teens who died in motor vehicle crashes were killed in crashes that involved distracted driving.3
CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS) monitors health risk behaviors among U.S. high school students, including texting or emailing while driving.4 A study analyzing data from the 2019 survey revealed the following:
In 2019, 39% of high school students who drove in the past 30 days texted or emailed while driving on at least one of those days.5
Texting or emailing while driving was more common among older students than younger students (see figure below) and more common among white students (44%) than black (30%) or Hispanic students (35%).5
Texting or emailing while driving was as common among students whose grades were mostly As or Bs as among students with mostly Cs, Ds, or Fs. 5
Students who texted or emailed while driving were also more likely to report other transportation risk behaviors. They were:
more likely to not always wear a seat belt;
more likely to ride with a driver who had been drinking alcohol;
and more likely to drive after drinking alcohol. 5
NHTSA. Traffic Safety Facts Research Note: Distracted Driving 2018 (DOT HS 812 926). Available at https://crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Public/ViewPublication/812926external icon
Sourceexternal icon : Transportation Risk Behaviors Among High School Students — Youth Risk Behavior Survey, United States, 2019
How to Prevent Distracted Driving
What drivers can do
Do not multitask while driving. Whether it’s adjusting your mirrors, picking the music, eating a sandwich, making a phone call, or reading an email―do it before or after your trip, not during.
You can use appsexternal icon to help you avoid cell phone use while driving. Consider trying an app to reduce distractions while driving.
What passengers can do
Speak up if you are a passenger in a car with a distracted driver. Ask the driver to focus on driving.
Reduce distractions for the driver by assisting with navigation or other tasks.
What parents can do6
Talk to your teen or young adult about the rules and responsibilities involved in driving. Share stories and statistics related to teen/young adult drivers and distracted driving.
Remind them driving is a skill that requires the driver’s full attention.
Emphasize that texts and phone calls can wait until arriving at a destination.
Learn more: visit NHTSA’s website on safe teen drivingexternal icon .
What States Are Doing to Prevent Distracted Driving
Many states have enacted laws to help prevent distracted driving. These include banning texting while driving, implementing hands-free laws, and limiting the number of young passengers who can ride with teen drivers.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety tracks cellphone use lawsexternal icon and young passenger restrictionsexternal icon by state.
While the effectiveness of cell phone and texting laws requires further study, high-visibility enforcement (HVE) efforts for distracted driving laws can be effective in reducing cell phone use while driving. From 2010 to 2013, NHTSA evaluated distracted driving HVE demonstration projects in four communities. These projects increased police enforcement of distracted driving laws and increased awareness of distracted driving using radio advertisements, news stories, and similar media. After the projects were complete, observed driver cell phone use fell from:
4.1% to 2.7% in the Sacramento Valley Region in California,7
6.8% to 2.9% in Hartford, Connecticut,8
4.5% to 3.0% in the state of Delaware,7 and
3.7% to 2.5% in Syracuse, New York.8
Graduated driver licensing (GDL) is a system which helps new drivers gain experience under low-risk conditions by granting driving privileges in stages. Comprehensive GDL systems include five components, one of which addresses distracted driving: the young passenger restriction.9 CDC’s GDL Planning Guide can assist states in assessing, developing, and implementing actionable plans to strengthen their GDL systems.
Some states have installed rumble strips on highways to alert drowsy, distracted, or otherwise inattentive drivers that they are about to go off the road. These rumble strips are effective at reducing certain types of crashes. 10
What the Federal Government is Doing to Prevent Distracted Driving
Several federal regulations target distractions for workers:
In 2009, President Obama issued an Executive Orderexternal icon prohibiting federal employees from texting while driving government-owned vehicles, or when driving privately owned vehicles on official government business.
In 2010, the Federal Railroad Administrationexternal icon banned cell phone and electronic device use for railroad operating employees on the job.
In 2011, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administrationexternal icon banned all hand-held cell phone use by commercial drivers and drivers carrying hazardous materials.
NHTSA has several campaignsexternal icon to raise awareness of the dangers of distracted driving, including their annual “U Drive. U Text. U Pay.” campaign, which began in April 2014.
NHTSA has issued voluntary guidelines to promote safety by discouraging the introduction of both original, in-vehiclepdf iconexternal icon and portable/aftermarketpdf iconexternal icon electronic devices in vehicles.
CDC has developed the Parents Are the Key campaign, which helps parents, pediatricians, and communities help keep teen drivers safe on the road.
Distracted Driving Fact Sheet
This fact sheet provides an overview of distracted driving and promising strategies that are being used to address distracted driving.