2020 Distracted Driving and Cellphone Usage Crash Statistics

Distracted Driving and Cellphone Usage Crash Statistics

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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.

Key findings

  • 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.

CrashesDriversFatalities
Total fatal crashes33,65451,49036,560
Distracted affected2,6282,6882,841
Cellphone in use349354385

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.

YearCrash severityCrashes resulting from distracted drivingCellphone in use
2014Fatal2,972387
Injury297,00022,000
Property damage667,00046,000
2015Fatal3,242453
Injury265,00021,000
Property damage617,00048,000
2016Fatal3,197453
Injury295,00023,000
Property damage606,00042,000
2017Fatal3,003418
Injury285,00021,000
Property damage624,00050,000
2018Fatal2,628349
Injury276,00021,000
Property damage659,00038,000

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.

AgeFatal crashesDistracted fatalitiesCellphone in useCellphone percentage
15–193,0702374012%
20–2911,62968012018%
30–399,2645068617%
40–497,8093894411%
50–597,8833423611%
60–695,635251218%
70+4,91925662%

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.

StateHandheld ban?Texting ban?
AlabamaNoYes
AlaskaNoYes
ArizonaYesYes
Arkansas18-20 year olds onlyYes
CaliforniaYesYes
ColoradoNoYes
ConnecticutYesYes
DelawareYesYes
Washington D.C.YesYes
FloridaNoYes
GeorgiaYesYes
HawaiiYesYes
IdahoNoYes
IllinoisYesYes
IndianaNoYes
IowaNoYes
KansasNoYes
KentuckyNoYes
LouisianaLeaner permits onlyYes
MaineYesYes
MarylandYesYes
MassachusettsYesYes
MichiganNoYes
MinnesotaYesYes
MississippiNoYes
MissouriNoNo
MontanaNoNo
NebraskaNoYes
NevadaYesYes
New HampshireYesYes
New JerseyYesYes
New MexicoNoYes
New YorkYesYes
North CarolinaNoYes
North DakotaNoYes
OhioNoYes
OklahomaLearner permit onlyYes
OregonYesYes
PennsylvaniaNoYes
Rhode IslandYesYes
South CarolinaNoYes
South DakotaNoYes
TennesseeYesYes
TexasYesYes
UtahNoYes
VermontYesYes
VirginiaYesYes
WashingtonYesYes
West VirginiaYesYes
WisconsinNoYes
WyomingNoYes

Methodology

Distracted-driving statistics were compiled from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) using the Fatality Analysis Reporting System.

Sterling Price

Sterling Price is a research analyst at ValuePenguin specializing in health and life insurance. He graduated from Syracuse University with a bachelors degree in Finance and Accounting and has previous experience as a licensed life insurance representative.

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