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Distracted driving is a general term, but it usually means the driver isn't fully paying attention to the road. It can include things like talking on a cellphone, texting or checking a navigation system.
- 8% of fatal car crashes resulted from distracted driving in 2018.
- 2015 was the worst year for distracted-driving fatalities, but the number of such incidents has steadily declined.
- Among all age groups, millennials had the most distracted-driving deaths and crashes.
Distracted-driving behavior is dangerous for the driver — but also to other cars, pedestrians and cyclists on the road. For this reason, many states have proposed legislation that bans using a cellphone while driving. However, there are still far too many crashes attributed to this risky behavior.
How many fatalities per year are associated with distracted driving?
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 2,841 fatalities are attributed to distracted driving every year. Of this total, close to 14% are a result of using a cellphone while driving.
|Total fatal crashes||33,654||51,490||36,560|
|Cellphone in use||349||354||385|
Distracted-driving fatalities by year
Historically, fatal car crashes that resulted from distracted driving reached a peak during 2015, when the NHTSA reported 3,242 such fatalities. However, the number of distracted driving fatalities has decreased by more than 23% to 2,628 fatalities.
|Year||Crash severity||Crashes resulting from distracted driving||Cellphone in use|
Distracted driving fatalities by age
Crashes involving young drivers — ages 15 to 29 — account for 30% of total fatal crashes, according to NHTSA data. Drivers in their 20s were the most likely to be involved in a fatal distracted-driving accident — and many were using a cellphone at the time of the crash.
The number of distracted-driving incidents decreases as drivers get older. However, the 70-and-older group had five more fatalities due to distracted driving than drivers in their 60s.
|Age||Fatal crashes||Distracted fatalities||Cellphone in use||Cellphone percentage|
Distracted-driving laws by state
Below, we've outlined the distracted-driving laws across the U.S. No state bans cellphone use for all drivers, but 37 states have banned cellphones for novice drivers and 23 have banned them for school bus drivers. Additionally, 48 states ban texting while driving. Missouri and Montana are the only states that don't ban this behavior.
|State||Handheld ban?||Texting ban?|
|Arkansas||18-20 year olds only||Yes|
|Louisiana||Leaner permits only||Yes|
|Oklahoma||Learner permit only||Yes|
Distracted-driving statistics were compiled from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) using the Fatality Analysis Reporting System.