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Cell Phone Use

General Statistics

  • Even though teens recognize that talking or texting on a cell phone or using social media apps while driving is unsafe, they often engage in these behaviors while driving.1
  • In 2013, 10 percent of all drivers ages 15 to 19 involved in fatal crashes were reported as distracted at the time of the crash. This age group has the largest proportion of drivers who were distracted at the time of the crash. 2
  • In 2013, there were 3,154 people killed and an estimated additional 424,000 injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers.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
  • Teen drivers receive the most calls from their parents, more than general calling patterns would suggest.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
  • Typing text messages reduces drivers' capability to adequately direct attention to the roadway, to respond to important traffic events, and to conctro la vehicle within a lane and with respect to other vehicles. 9


  1. McDonald CC, Sommers MS. Teen Drivers' Perceptions of Inattention and Cell Phone Use While Driving. Traffic Inj Prev. 2015;16(sup2):S52-S58.
  2. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Distracted Driving 2013. Washington, DC. April 2015.   
  3. Just MA, Keller TA, Cynkar JA.  A Decrease in Brain Activation Associated With Driving When Listening to Someone SpeakBrain 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. LaVoie N, Lee YC, Parker J. Preliminary Research Developing a Theory of Cell Phone Distraction and Social Relationships. Accident Analysis and Prevention. 2015;86(1):155-160.
  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 the Prevalence of Environment Factors and Driver Behaviors in Teen Driver Crashes. AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. March 2015.
  9. Caird JK, Johnston KA, Willness CR, Asbridge M, and Steel P. A Meta-analysis of the Effects of Texting on Driving. Accident Analysis and Prevention.June 29, 2014 (online).
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