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Cell Phone Use

General Statistics

  • A third of teens self-report texting or emailing while driving (in the prior month), a proven deadly distraction for all drivers and especially teen drivers.1
  • Nearly 70 percent of Americans ages 18 to 64 recently chatted on their phones while driving, and about 30 percent of this group sent text messages while behind the wheel.2 
  • Cell phone use behind the wheel reduces the amount of brain activity associated with driving by 37 percent.3
  • Crash risk is four times higher when a driver uses a cell phone, whether or not it’s hands-free.4
  • A typical teen sends and receives about 100 text messages a day.5
  • Some activities—such as texting—take the driver’s attention away from driving more frequently and for longer periods than other distractions.6
  • The overwhelming majority (75 percent) of serious teen driver crashes are due to "critical errors," with the three common errors accounting for nearly half of these crashes: 7
    --lack of scanning that is needed to detect and respond to hazards
    --going too fast for road conditions (e.g., driving too fast to respond to others or to successfully navigate a curve)
    --being distracted by something inside or outside of the vehicle
  • Distraction was a key factor in 58 percent of crashes involving drivers ages 16 to 19, according to an analysis of video footage of 1,691 moderate-to-severe crashes 6 seconds before they occurred. 8
  • Distracted driving is a factor in 14 percent of police-reported crashes involving teen drivers. 9


  1. 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  2. Mobile Device Use While Driving --  United States and Seven European Countries, 2011. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. March 15, 2013. Accessed at  
  3. Just MA, Keller TA, Cynkar JA.  A Decrease in Brain Activation Associated With Driving When Listening to Someone Speak.  Brain Research. 2008; 1205:70-80.
  4. Redelmeier DA, Tibshirani RJ. Association Between Cellular-Telephone Calls and Motor Vehicle Collisions. The New England Journal of Medicine. February 13, 1997; 336(7).
  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Distracted Driving in the United States and Europe. June 7, 2012. Accessed at
  6. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Statistics and Facts about Distracted Driving. Washington, DC: US Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2011.
  7.  Curry AE, Hafetz J, Kallan MJ, Winston FK, Durbin DR. Prevalence of Teen Driver Errors Leading to Serious Motor Vehicle Crashes. Accident Analysis and Prevention. April 2011.
  8. Carney C, McGehee D, Harland H, Weiss M, and Raby M. Using Naturalistic Driving Data to Assess teh Prevalence of Environment Factors and Driver Behaviors in Teen Driver Crashes. AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. March 2015.
  9. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Dept. of Transportation (US). Traffic Safety Facts: Distracted Driving 2012, DOT HS 812 012. April 2014.
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