How Many People Die From Texting and Driving? – 79 Statistics And Facts To Help You Hang Up (2021-2022)

In today’s fast-paced world, our attention is more divided than ever. As we push towards greater productivity, it’s tempting to start taking shortcuts.

But there’s one thing we all do which requires our undivided attention: driving.

Keeping your eyes on the road is essential when you’re operating a vehicle. At 60mph, it takes just four seconds to travel the length of a football field. A lot can happen in the blink of an eye.

A quick glance at our phone might seem harmless when we’re cruising on the highway, but in fact, splitting our attention is a dangerous habit.

Our cellphones are a world in miniature, and every app has been meticulously developed to grab your attention.

From Instagram reels to calendar notifications, from reading a text to turning on Bluetooth, the screen lures us in.

So it’s not just texting: any interaction with your cell phone comes with a risk. And with many states legislating against more than just texting, you could be crossing into illegal territory, too.

Our mobile devices are a constant source of temptation – from mid-movie check-ins to date night data, we’re often on our phone when we shouldn’t be.

But when it comes to driving, with your life on the line, it’s not worth the risk.

If you’re just here for bullet points? No worries. Here are most notable from our findings:

Key Insights:

  • Using a cell phone is responsible for around 1.6 million crashes each year.
  • 1 in every 4 accidents are caused by distracted driving.
  • Across the country, more than 660,000 people are texting and driving at any given moment.
  • Texting whilst driving makes you 20 times as likely to be involved in an accident.
  • More than ⅓ of teens admit to texting while driving.
  • Using your cellphone while operating a vehicle has the same impact on your driving ability as being drunk.
  • Around 400 fatal accidents each year can be attributed to texting while driving.
  • And texting while driving is illegal in 48 states as well as D.C.

Now let’s take a deep dive into the texting and driving statistics. Put the phone down, and listen up.

Texting and Driving Statistics (2021-2022)

As our mobile devices play an ever-larger role in our social, professional and leisure activities, we’re never far from a screen. But the consequences of texting and driving are profound. Here’s every texting and driving statistic you need to know. No, you hang up first.

How Many Accidents Are Caused By Texting And Driving Every Year?

One in four road accidents are due to distracted driving. With over 5 million accidents occurring each year, it’s estimated that distracted driving leads to 1.6 totally preventable accidents every year.

Texting while driving doubles your chances of being involved in an accident, and triples the risk of incidents such as clipping a kerb or drifting between lanes.

How Many Deaths Are Caused by Texting And Driving?

400 people are killed every year in accidents directly linked to texting and driving, but 30,000 deaths are caused every year by distracted driving in general. One in every four accidents is due to distracted driving!

Over half of all drivers think texting and driving should be prohibited, while the majority of young people think they can do so safely. Who’s right? Let’s take a look at the shocking statistics of deaths from distracted driving.

Accidents and Death Data
  • Texting whilst driving doubles your chances of being involved in an accident.
  • And it triples your chances of a minor incident, such as drifting out of your lane or clipping the kerb.
  • There are around 400 deaths a year directly linked to texting and driving.
  • But distracted driving causes 30,000 deaths a year as a whole.
  • In March 2017 just outside of Concan, Texas, 13 fatalities occurred when a texting pickup driver crashed into a church bus.
  • Overall, 6% of drivers involved in fatal accidents were distracted.
  • But in 2017, 16% of drivers aged 15-19 involved in a fatal accident were using their cellphones.
  • And a whopping 37% of 20-29 year olds were using their phone at the time of a fatal crash.

How Many Deaths Caused Texting and Driving By Year

Deaths from distracted driving are completely preventable and therefore any number is unacceptable. Deaths from texting and driving peaked in 2016 caused 453 fatalities, but it remains to be seen if the fall in deaths is a much-needed trend.

YearTexting and Driving Fatalities
2017401
2016453
2015453
2014387
2013411

Source: NHTSA

Do People Disapprove Of Texting And Driving?

97% of teens agree that texting and driving is dangerous and the majority of drivers agree that texting and driving should be illegal. However, 20% of male drivers and 10% of female drivers argue that they can safely text from behind the wheel.

Whilst so many Americans are focussing on their phone screen rather than the wind screen, we should know better. Here are the contemporary attitudes to the use of cell phones whilst driving.

Attitudes to Texting While Driving
  • Distracted driving is unanimously acknowledged as a danger.
  • 97% of teens surveyed agree that texting and driving is dangerous behaviour.
  • The majority of drivers think texting and driving should be prohibited.
  • Around 20% of men say they can safely text and drive, whilst 10% of women maintain this belief.
  • Despite 80% of men and 90% of women acknowledging the danger, many still reach for their phones.
  • 60% of 18-34 year olds think they can safely text while driving: the digital generation.
  • While only 6% of over 55s harbour the same belief.

How Have Been The Teen Behaviour Over Time While Driving?

Teens average a five minute response time for a digital message, so it’s no surprise they reach for their mobile devices while driving and 58% of teen crashes are caused by distracted driving. Here’s how teen behaviour has been changing over time.

YearEmailed While Driving
201941.4%
201741.5%
201539.2%
201339%

Source: CDC

When Was Texting And Driving Made Illegal?

While New York banned using a cell phone while driving in 2001, the first state-wide law to mention texting was implemented in Wisconsin in 2008 and Alaska made texting and driving illegal the same year. Specific laws around cell phone use came earlier – Arizona banned school bus drivers from using handheld devices in 1996!

Gone are the days when changing the tape was the biggest distraction available in your vehicle. Now there are messaging apps, news notifications and Spotify playlists to get absorbed in. Let’s take a look at how texting and driving emerged into a scourge of the road.

History of Texting and Driving
  • The first text message was sent in December 1992.
  • Cell phone functionality grew in the 1990s and in 1997, Nokia introduced the 90001 Communicator with a full QWERTY keyboard.
  • In 1997, however, just 55 million Americans had a cell phone: less than one person in every five.
  • As of 2021, 97% of Americans own a cell phone.
  • Texting and driving grew from 1997 to 2001, when New York became the first state to enact sweeping legislation against this dangerous distraction.
  • New York’s 2001 law prohibited any use of a cell phone while driving.
  • Prior to this, state legislation had been more limited in scope.
  • In 1996, Arizona banned school bus drivers from using handheld devices.
  • The first state-wide law specifically banning texting was created in Washington in 2008.
  • And Alaska made texting and driving a crime in 2008, punishable by one year in jail.
  • Texting was growing into the dominant form of communication in the mid-2000s: the fourth quarter of 2007 was the first time that Americans texted more than they called.
  • The first conviction for motor vehicle homicide by texting occurred in Massachusetts in 2012.
  • By 2019, texting and driving was prohibited in almost every state – with a few exceptions. However, the rules around cell phone use while driving still differ considerably across state lines.

Is Texting And Driving Illegal In Every State?

Texting and driving is illegal in 48 states out of 50 across the United States. As of 2022, there are two states where texting and driving remains legal: Missouri and Montana. In Missouri, texting is banned for drivers under the age of 21, while in Montana there are no restrictions on texting and driving.

As cell phones have evolved, the law has had to keep up. Now that our mobile devices contain GPS navigation and entertainment systems as well as communications systems, the laws and penalties have diverged across America. Here’s a 2022 snapshot of the laws around texting and driving.

The Laws in the United States
  • Texting and driving is illegal across all 48 states out of 50.
  • The exceptions are Missouri and Montana, where there are no state-wide restrictions on cell phone use.
  • However, Montana cities such as Missoula, Bozeman, Helena and more have prohibited texting while operating a vehicle.
  • Penalties can vary from a $25 fine to a year in jail!
  • In Alabama, you risk a $25 fine for a first offence.
  • Whereas in Alaska, you’re committing a Class A misdemeanour with a potential penalty of a year in jail, and a $10,000 fine!
  • In many states, as well as a fine you’ll receive points on your licence.
  • And fines rise from a first to a third offence, often tripling in the process. Don’t be a repeat offender.
  • And drivers responsible for accidents, injury or death are punishable by greater fines or even jail sentences.
  • Many states have additional restrictions for under 18s and provisional licence holders.
  • In Colorado, Connecticut and Delaware, under 18s are prohibited from talking on hands-free devices.
  • In South Carolina, exemptions apply for GPS devices.
  • In the majority of states, using a handheld device while driving is a primary offence, meaning it can be the sole reason for a traffic stop.

Left on Read: How Common Is Texting And Driving?

Texting and driving is common among American drivers. 42% of drivers surveyed have read a text or email in the last month and 12% admit to reading texts while they drive often. One in three drivers has sent a written message from behind the wheel in the last month.

With cell phones now in the hands of 97% of Americans, we’re certified cell phone addicts. Let’s find out how many people are texting and driving.

How Common is Texting and Driving
  • AAA Foundation research has revealed that 70% of drivers have talked on a cell phone while driving recently.
  • And 31% admit to doing so “regularly” or “fairly often”.
  • When it comes to texting, 42% of drivers surveyed had read a text or email while driving in the preceding month.
  • 12% of drivers make it a habit, admitting to reading texts and emails fairly often.
  • A shocking 32% of drivers – almost one in three – had sent a written message in the last 30 days.
  • And 8% admit to doing so often.
  • A 2018 survey revealed that at any given moment, over 1 in 30 (3.2%) of drivers reaching an intersection will be using a handheld device.
  • 660,000 drivers are using a handheld device while driving, every second.
  • And 36% of drivers reach for their phone at a red light or stop sign.
  • 5.30 – 6pm is the most common time to be caught for texting and driving.

You Called? Who Is Most Likely To Be Texting And Driving?

The most likely demographic for texting and driving are young men. Men are twice as likely as women to believe that they can safely text while driving and 43% of young people admit to texting and driving.

Technology is commonly the source of a generational divide: you don’t see too many boomers on TikTok, after all! Let’s take a look at the demographic data around distracted driving – who are the worst culprits when it comes to texting and driving?

Texting and Driving Culprits
  • Men are twice as likely to think they can safely text whilst driving compared to women: 20% of men and 10% of women hold this belief.
  • Young people are many times more likely to use their cellphones while driving: whilst 97% of teens agree texting and driving is dangerous, 43% of them continue to do so.
  • Just 1% of drivers over 70 involved in a fatal accident were using a cellphone at the time.
  • And just 5% of 60-69 year olds involved in fatal crashes were using a cellphone.
  • Emailing while driving is common among teens: in 2013, 41.4% of teens admitted to sending an email while driving.
  • However, by 2017 this had stopped to 39% – are teens waking up to the dangers of texting while driving?
  • 58% of crashes involving teens are caused by distracted driving.
  • Teens whose parents drive while distracted are more than twice as likely to repeat these behaviours: nature or nurture?

Fatal Crashes By Age

Youths are disproportionately likely to be impacted by distracted driving. Here’s the 2017 data revealing how cell phone usage caused fatal accidents amongst different age groups: it’s a wake-up call to the digital generation.

Age GroupNumber% of Drivers Using Cell Phones
15-196316%
20-2915137%
30-398621%
40-494812%
50-59338%
60-69195%
70+41%
Total404100%

Source: NHTSA

Can You Go To Jail For Texting And Driving?

The usual punishment for texting and driving is a fine, which can range from $20 to $150 for a first offense and rise to $1000 for multiple offenses. If texting and driving causes injury or death, then you can even be sent to jail.

With so many crashes, injuries and deaths caused by texting and driving, there’s a horrible human cost for distracted driving. But it doesn’t end there: for drivers, distracted driving can result in fines and prohibitions on driving – even jail time. Let’s take a look at the consequences of texting and driving.

The Consequences and Impacts
  • Fines usually range from $20 to $150 for a first offence.
  • But can rise to $1000 for further offences.
  • You can expect to receive points on your driving record: these add up to a lost licence.
  • Repeat offenders might see their driving licence suspended or revoked.
  • Judges can prescribe driving safety training for drivers guilty of distracted driving.
  • You could have your vehicle impounded.
  • If injury or even death are caused by distracted driving, you can expect prosecution. Suspended licences and jail or prison time can occur.
  • Bus drivers and under 21s are often subjected to harsher penalties.

Does Texting And Driving Make Your Insurance More Expensive?

Any driving conviction can make your insurance more expensive. Texting and driving adds an average of $290 to your annual insurance rate – an increase of around 23%. In California, it can increase your rate by $800.

So while you might think a $20 fine for texting and driving sounds affordable – but driving convictions on your record will hit your wallet in other ways. A conviction for distracted driving will be a red flag for any insurer, leading to increased rates.

  • A conviction for texting and driving can add $290 to your annual insurance rate.
  • The average increase is by 23% after a distracted driving conviction.
  • But in California, a conviction can raise your rates by 43%averaging at $800 a year. Not worth it!
  • Insurers in Massachusetts used texting and driving data to justify a blanket increase of 3-6% in their premiums. Texting and driving costs everyone.

Stop Press: How Can We Prevent Texting And Driving?

You can prevent distracted driving by planning ahead, removing the temptation of your phone from the front seat, and by raising awareness about the dangers. There are plenty of ways to prevent distracted driving.

You’ll set a good example to future generations, save on your insurance premium and reduce the risk of an accident. Preventing distracted driving is a win, win, win. Here are some strategies for avoiding the temptation of the phone screen on your next commute.

Know What It Means

Although distracted driving emerged with the rise of digital devices providing a means of text communication, texting is far from the only distraction available to drivers today.

Preventing distracted driving requires generating awareness of everything that could take your eyes off the road, from your head unit to an incoming email. Nowadays, social media companies are building addictive apps that absorb your attention: preventing texting and driving requires you to resist the lure.

Planning Ahead

Planning your communications and check-ins around driving time can help you avoid looking at your mobile device while you drive. Road time is downtime, so it’s easy to remember that email you forgot to reply to. Before you start the engine, check there’s no urgent correspondence you need to attend to.

It also pays to plan your route before you set off. Get a sense of direction so you’re not glued to your GPS, and if you do get lost make sure you pull over before accessing your maps app.

Remove The Temptation

One way to avoid checking your cell phone is to put it out of reach entirely. Leave your cell in your backpack in the trunk or stash it in the glove compartment – it’s still there for emergencies, but out of sight out of mind.

Before you stash your cell, switch it to Airplane Mode to avoid the siren’s song of ringtones and notifications: distracted driving starts as your mind wanders.

Technology Comes Full Circle

Distracted driving began with the rise of technology, and as this cycle comes full circle, technology provides some solutions to distracted driving in 2021.

As big-name brands are waking up to the dangers of texting and driving, Most operating systems now offer a driving mode you can engage. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connect your mobile device to the dash, giving you intuitive and safe access to the apps you need most.

Apps like LifeSaver and AT&T Auto detect when you’re driving and silence notifications, preventing distractions from rolling in in the first place. AT&T Auto even has a handy feature where it sends automated responses to messages you receive, ensuring you’re not worried about ignoring a vital message while you’re on the road. Xperi’s driver monitoring solution is able to detect a distracted driver by employing face detection and tracking, head position, eye gaze, eyelid opening and more.

Conclusion

When the first text message was sent in 1992, nobody could have predicted the way mobile devices would centralize themselves in our lives.

We’ve entered the digital age, and we’ve never been more connected. But the downside of having the world in our pocket is that it creates a world of distraction.

And when you’re driving, your attention is required on the road. In the time it takes to read a single text message, you could have travelled the length of a football field. Tom Brady’s proved that a lot of action can take place over that distance!

Understanding the dangers of texting and driving is the first step to preventing an accident. And setting an example for the next generation can save lives down the road.

In this helter-skelter age of constant distraction, let your drive be a time to unwind. Turn the driving seat into a space for a digital detox.

Just put the phone down!


Texting while Driving

Frequently Asked Questions About Texting And Driving

Knowledge is power. Here’s the answer to your pressing questions about texting and driving.

How Many People Die From Texting and Driving Each Year?

Texting and driving directly leads to an average of 400 deaths each year, but distracted driving causes many more deaths once you factor in the accidents. An estimated 30,000 people are killed on the road each year due to distracted driving.

What’s The Problem With Texting And Driving?

It takes an average of five seconds to read a text. At highway speeds, your vehicle will travel more than the length of a football field in that time.

When you’re driving, anything can happen. Even on rural highways, an animal can come from nowhere when you least expect it – so you have to keep your attention on the road. Whilst a quick glance at your mobile device might seem harmless, it takes your eyes off the road and doubles your chances of being involved in an accident.

What Are The Legal Consequences Of Texting And Driving?

The consequences of texting and driving vary from state to state. In Alaska, this is classified as a Class A misdemeanour, with a maximum penalty of a year in jail and a $10,000 fine!

The majority of states fine distracted drivers between $10 and $100 for a first offence, but further offences are punishable with points on your licence, and you can even lose your licence altogether.

Under 21s and bus drivers are subject to harsher penalties: you could have your licence suspended for a first offence.

How Can We Prevent Texting And Driving?

Preventing texting and driving starts with setting an example: teens whose parents text and drive are twice as likely to do so themselves.

Plan ahead for your journey so you have no reason to use your mobile device while on the move, keep your phone out of arm’s reach of the driver’s seat and utilise driving OS and apps to help keep your eyes on the road.


Sources:

  • A Brief History of Text Messaging. Retrieved from Mobivity
  • Mobile Fact Sheet. Retrieved from Pew Research Center
  • The History of Laws on Cellphone Use While Driving. Retrieved from HealingLaw
  • Texting While Driving. Retrieved from Wikipedia
  • Restrictions on cell phone use while driving in the United States. Retrieved from Wikipedia
  • 87 Percent of Drivers Engage in Unsafe Behaviors While Behind the Wheel. Retrieved from NewsRoom
  • Nearly 500,000 Drivers Risk Their Lives By Using Mobile Phones On The Road. Retrieved from Independent

Recommended Reading:

Robert Muñoz

I’m Robert, a US-based auto electrician, auto mechanic, trained engineer and fanatic about all things motor vehicle. After studying engineering in college I returned to my original passion - car mechanics - and I ran a garage for a number of years serving my local community. Through my garage, I got involved in numerous road safety campaigns in my local area until eventually, I decided to share what I've learned with the world. Know more about me... You can follow me on LinkedIn.

Leave a Comment