Texting While Driving

Distracted driving, which includes texting while driving, is a significant public safety concern for state leaders and law enforcement. Although 43 states and the District of Columbia have passed bans that prohibit texting while driving, driver distraction is a leading factor in nearly one-fifth of all fatal crashes.

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In 2007, Washington became the first state to ban texting while driving. Seven years later, 43 states and the District of Columbia have passed similar bans.

  • In 43 states, texting while driving is banned for all drivers. In 39 states, texting while driving has primary enforcement. That is, an officer may cite a driver for texting while driving without any other traffic offense taking place. In five states, enforcement is secondary.1 
  • Only seven states—Arizona, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Texas—have not passed a ban for all drivers. Four of those states—Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas—have passed bans on texting while driving for novice drivers.2
  • According to a survey by the Governors Highway Safety Association, 47 states and the District of Columbia reported taking steps to educate the public about the threat of distracted driving in 2012, up from 37 states and the district in 2010.3

Driver distraction is a leading factor in many crashes and texting is one of the most common distractions.

  • Your eyes are off the road an average of five seconds when texting. At 55 mph, that’s the equivalent of traveling the length of a football field while blindfolded.4
  • In 2012, 3,328 people were killed and an estimated 421,000 people were injured in distraction-affected crashes.5
  • Texting while driving increases the risk of a crash or near-crash by two times over nondistracted driving.6 
  • Ten percent of all drivers under age 20 involved in fatal crashes were reported as distracted at the time of the crash.7

Despite the risks, many drivers admit to distracted driving and the problem is particularly pervasive for young drivers.

  • According to a 2011 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 31 percent of drivers ages 18-64 reported they had read or sent text messages or email messages while driving at least once within the past 30 days.8
  • A number of studies have found teenagers frequently text and drive. The University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute reported 25 percent of teenagers respond to a text message once or more every time they drive.
  • In 2009, a Pew study reported 40 percent of teenagers say they have been in a car when the driver used a cell phone in a way that put people in danger.9
  • According to the Federal Communications Commission, 11 percent of drivers ages 18 to 20 who were involved in an automobile accident and survived admitted they were sending or receiving texts when they crashed.10

Read more about the enforcement of texting bans in the Capitol Research Brief, "Enforcement of Texting While Driving Bans," by Sean Slone.

References:

1 Governors Highway Safety Association, “Distracted Driving Laws,” April 2014.
2 Ibid.
3 Governors Highway Safety Association, “Distracted Driving Survey of the States,” July 17, 2013.
4 Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, “Driver Distraction in Commercial Vehicle Operations,” September 2009.
5 The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, “What is Distracted Driving?
6 Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, “The Impact of Hand-Held and Hands-Free Cell Phone Use on Driving Performance and Safety-Critical Event Risk - Final Report,” April 2013.
7 The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration,
8 The Centers for Disease Control, “Distracted Driving.”
9 The Pew Research Center, “Teens and Distracted Driving: Texting, talking and other uses of the cell phone behind the wheel,” November 2009.
10 Federal Communications Commission, “The Dangers of Texting While Driving,” January 2013.
 

Texting While Driving