The Frightening Statistics Behind Texting and Driving

Each year, distracted driving causes over 3,000 deaths and 400,000 injuries. Texting while driving is one of the most severe forms of distracted driving.
Written by Samuel Todd
Reviewed by Jessica Barrett
In 2019 alone, crashes involving distracted drivers caused over 3,000 deaths. Nearly 400,000 people are injured in these types of crashes every year.
If you’re reading this while the sun is up, an estimated 660,000 Americans are currently using their phones while driving. Though it might only take a few seconds, texting while driving is one of the most severe forms of distracted driving. 
We all know how tempting it is to pick up the phone and shoot a quick text from behind the wheel, but trust us—it simply isn’t worth the risk.
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The statistics behind texting and driving

Here’s the bottom line: if you’re speeding down the highway at 55 mph, and you take five seconds to read or send a text, you’ll travel the length of a football field while looking at your phone. 
Plus, according to a
study from Carnegie Mellon
, your brain is really bad at multitasking while driving—so you might as well be driving with your eyes closed.
As if the thought of blindly racing down a crowded highway isn’t scary enough, here are some more shocking texting and driving statistics:
  • Texting while driving is six times more likely to cause an accident than driving under the influence.
  • 25% of car accidents in the USA are caused by texting and driving.
  • 11 teenagers die every day due to texting while driving.
  • A teen driver using a cell phone has the same reaction time as a 70-year old driver, according to a
    University of Utah study
    .
  • 64% of all car accidents in the United States involve driving while using a cell phone.

Why you might be tempted to text and drive

Most drivers text for one simple reason: they want to stay connected. Maybe you’re heading to a friend’s house, and they ask how far away you are. Maybe your parents check in to see if you’ve arrived yet. Maybe your phone screen keeps flickering to life with new messages from the group chat, and your FOMO starts activating. 
It’s natural to want to stay connected. Social interaction is a powerful force. So powerful, in fact, that 75% of drivers admit to texting while driving, even though 98% are aware of its dangers.
At the end of the day, the decision is yours. Someday soon, you’ll be cruising down the highway with two hands on the wheel, and you’ll see your phone screen light up in your cupholder. With 1.6 million crashes due to texting and driving each year, you’ll have to ask yourself the question: is it worth it?

Why texting and driving isn’t worth it

It’s crucial to resist the urge to text until you’ve safely reached your destination.

A thought experiment

Let’s try a little thought experiment (we promise it’ll only take a second! Well, five seconds, to be exact). Remember that “football field” stat from earlier? It might not seem like a long time, but five seconds can feel like an eternity, and we’re inviting you to try a mini-meditation to prove it.
Close your eyes, clear your mind, and focus on counting to five. Don’t let anything distract you. Feels longer than you thought, right?
Now, try it again—but this time, imagine that you’re hurtling down a busy highway. Imagine the cars roaring past you, your engine humming as you accelerate, your brakes squeaking when you see red tail lights appear ahead of you. All of a sudden, it becomes pretty hard to focus on counting to five.
That’s because our brains are terrible multitaskers. And, on a road with heavy traffic, all it takes is a few seconds of distraction and a slight bend in the road to end up in a serious accident.

Texting and driving is tied to other risky behaviors

Along with being a leading cause of car crashes in America, texting while driving is linked to other dangerous behaviors, such as:
  • Speeding
  • Drinking and driving
  • Running red lights
  • Not wearing a seatbelt
  • Illegally passing cars
A few minutes of missing out is much better than having a totaled car because you rear-ended somebody on the highway. More importantly, saving your texts until you arrive is the best way to prevent injuries.
Key Takeaway Texting while driving is one of the leading causes of car crashes in the US, and it’s tied to other risky behaviors, like speeding and running red lights.

How you can save lives on the road

Though putting your phone down while you’re driving is the best way to boost road safety, there are plenty of other steps that teens, parents, and teachers can take to save lives on the streets.

Teens should spread the word

Teenage drivers are four times more likely than adults to get into a car crash (or near-crash) while distracted by their phones. If you’re a teen who drives to school or work every day, you are the most important person when it comes to keeping your friends safe on the road.
Let’s face it—you’re far more likely to listen to your closest friends than a guest speaker at your school or an online article. So, if you want to be a positive influence on your peers, turn off your text alerts while driving (or take advantage of Apple’s Driving Focus feature for iPhones), and encourage your friends to do the same.

Parents should lead by example

According to the NHTSA, the best thing a parent can do to make the roads less dangerous is to lead by example. Young drivers will try to emulate their parents, so having your kids commit to road safety can be a great weapon in the fight against distracted driving.
Plus, if your teen is itching to get on the road and impress their friends (aren’t they all?), remind them that violating a distracted driving law could cause a delay or temporary suspension of their license.
MORE: 8 pro tips for long car rides with kids

Teachers and employers should encourage safe driving habits

Educators and employers have special influence in the community, and they can use that influence to make the streets safer. If you’re a teacher (or leader of a group in the community), discuss distracted driving with your class or group and ask them to stay focused on the road.
Key Takeaway Teens, parents, and community figures can save lives by encouraging safe driving habits and spreading the word about texting while driving. 

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FAQs

The number of deaths from distracted driving increased 10% between 2018 and 2019. With the growing popularity of social media and the integration of technology into our everyday lives, texting and driving has become far more common during the last decade.
Although texting and driving is the worst kind of distracted driving, it’s not the only kind—eating, drinking, turning to talk to passengers, and fiddling with the radio or navigation system are all types of distracted driving.
Currently, 48 states have laws against texting and driving, so it’s a safe bet that you’ll face legal consequences in your state if you text while driving.
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