Texting While Driving in 2016

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In 2007, Washington became the first state to ban texting while driving. Nine years later, 46 states and the District of Columbia have passed bans.

  • In 46 states, texting while driving is banned for all drivers. In 41 states plus the District of Columbia, 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 (Florida, Iowa, Nebraska, Ohio and South Dakota) enforcement is secondary.1
  • Laws in 14 states and the District of Columbia prohibit drivers from using hand-held cell phones at all while driving. All of those laws have primary enforcement.
  • Only four states—Arizona, Missouri, Montana and Texas—have not passed a texting ban for all drivers. Two of those states—Arizona and Montanahave no ban at all for drivers while Missouri and Texas have passed bans on texting while driving for novice drivers.2
  • According to a survey by the Governors Highway Safety Association, states have taken significant steps to curb texting while driving in recent years: text messaging bans for all drivers grew by 62 percent from 2010 to 2016 (29 states plus the District of Columbia had a ban in 2010 while 46 states plus the District of Columbia have a ban in 2016).
  • Nearly every state (48 and the District of Columbia) collect data on distracted driving, including at least one category for distraction on police crash report forms. The two states that currently do not collect distracted crash data are Connecticut and New Hampshire.

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

  • Drivers' 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 2014, 3,179 people were killed–10 percent of all crash fatalities–and an estimated 431,000 people were injured in distraction-affected crashes. That’s the equivalent of more than eight people killed and 1,180 people injured every day.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 2015 distracted driving survey by Erie Insurance reported that one-third of drivers admitted to texting and driving and three-quarters said they’ve seen others do it. The survey reported that drivers do all sorts of dangerous things behind the wheel including brushing teeth and changing clothes.9
  • 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.10 
  • 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.11 
  • According to the Federal Communications Commission, 11 percent of drivers ages 18-20 who were involved in an automobile accident and survived admitted they were sending or receiving texts when they crashed.12

REFERENCES
1 Governor’s Highway Safety Association, "Distracted Driving Laws," June 2016.
Ibid.
3 Governor’s 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 National Center for Statistics and Analysis, “2014 Crash Data Key Findings,” November 2015.
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, “Traffic Safety Facts: Distracted Driving 2013,” April 2015.
8 The Centers for Disease Control, "Distracted Driving."
9 Erie Insurance, “Survey finds texting while driving varies by gender, region, age,” March 2015.
10 University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, “Do as I say, not as I do: distracted driving behavior of teens and their parents,” December 2015.
11 The Pew Research Center, “Teens and Distracted Driving: Texting, talking and other uses of the cell phone behind the wheel,” November 2009.
12 Federal Communications Commission, “The Dangers of Texting While Driving,” January 2013.

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