Texting and driving statistics

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 3,142 people died from distracted driving in 2020, and 396 of those deaths were related to cellphone use..

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Rachael BrennanSenior Editor & Licensed Auto Insurance ExpertRachael Brennan is a senior editor and a licensed auto insurance expert at Policygenius. Her work has also been featured in MoneyGeek, Clearsurance, Adweek, Boston Globe, The Ladders, and AutoInsurance.com.

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Anna SwartzAnna SwartzSenior Managing Editor & Auto Insurance ExpertAnna Swartz is a senior managing editor and auto insurance expert at Policygenius, where she oversees our car insurance coverage. Previously, she was a senior staff writer at Mic.com, as well as an associate writer at The Dodo.

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Distracted driving is incredibly dangerous. Taking your eyes off the road, taking your hands off the wheel, or letting your mind focus on things other than driving are all dangerous behaviors behind the wheel, and texting involves all three forms of distracted driving.

Key takeaways

  • The average driver is two to nine times more likely to be in an accident if they are texting while driving.

  • Handheld cell phone use (including texting) tends to be highest among 16- to 24-year-old drivers.

  • If you’re caught texting and driving, you risk getting a ticket and potentially raising your car insurance rates.

  • 49 states have laws banning texting and driving (Montana is the only state with no distracted driving laws.)

Texting and driving can get you a ticket, cause an accident, and potentially cause an increase in your car insurance rates.

Do points on your license affect insurance?

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Car insurance and moving

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Car insurance rates by zip code

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What are the dangers of texting while driving?

Texting and driving may seem innocent, but even a quick text while you’re behind the wheel could cause a serious accident. According to the CDC, reading or sending a text while driving 55 miles per hour is the equivalent of driving the length of a football field with your eyes closed.

How many accidents are caused by texting and driving?

In 2019, over 3,100 people were killed and another 424,000 were injured in crashes involving a distracted driver. Approximately 20% of the people who died in crashes with a distracted driver that year were pedestrians or bicyclists. [1]  

Although not every distracted driver is texting, cell phone use (including texting) is still a major contributor to car accidents. In fact, the average driver is two to nine times more likely to be in an accident if they are texting while driving. [2]

Types of crashes in 2020

Number of crashes

Number of fatalities

Total fatal crashes

35,766

38,824

Number of distraction-affected fatal crashes

2,880

3,142

Number of cell phone distraction-affected fatal crashes

354

396

Source: Insurance Information Institute

How many people die from texting and driving?

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 3,142 people died from distracted driving in 2020. [3] Of those fatalities, 396 were attributed to cell phone use while driving.

But some sources think the number of texting-related fatalities may actually be much higher because drivers are unlikely to say they were texting at the time of an accident. [4]

Teen texting and driving statistics

Teen drivers are more likely to be in an accident than older drivers and distracted driving is a big part of that. The increased likelihood of being in an accident is a big reason why teens pay higher car insurance rates than adult drivers.

  • 60% of teens 18 and older admit to texting while driving. [5]

  • According to the CDC, a teen’s grades don’t have any impact on whether or not they text and drive — teens who earn As or Bs are just as likely to text and drive as teens with lower GPAs.

  • Teen drivers were 21% more likely to text while driving if they admitted to infrequent seatbelt use. [6]

  • According to the NHTSA, handheld cell phone use tends to be highest among 16- to 24-year-old drivers.

Texting and driving by state

It is against the law to text while driving in almost every state. Montana is the only state that doesn’t have any laws about texting and driving, but every state has their own approach to setting distracted driving laws.

For example, California bans both texting and driving and hand-held phone conversations for drivers of any age, while Texas bans texting and driving but allows hand-held cell phone use as long as you aren’t in a school crossing or on public school property. 

Consequences for texting and driving also vary by state, but can include tickets, fines, mandatory court appearances, points on your licenses, and even suspension of your driver’s license.

→ See a full list of texting and driving laws by state

Does texting and driving affect your car insurance rates?

Yes, texting and driving can affect your car insurance rates in a number of ways, but getting caught texting and driving or getting into a texting-related accident will almost certainly have an impact on your rates. 

1. Higher rates after an accident

If you are in an accident or get a moving violation due to texting while driving, that will show up on your driving record and it will likely cause your car insurance rates to go up.

2. Missing out on a usage-based discount

Many car insurance companies now offer policies with reduced rates in exchange for tracking your driving behavior through an app. If you have one of these policies, your insurance company will be able to see if you are using your phone while driving and you will see your insurance rates go up accordingly.

3. Rate increases for everyone else

Because texting and driving causes hundreds of accidents each year, insurance companies have to pay those claims. Then those costs are passed onto their customers in the form of higher rates for everyone, even for safe drivers.

4. Needing an SR-22

If you’re caught texting and driving more than once, and you get enough points on your license or have it suspended by the state, you’ll need SR-22 car insurance to get it back. That really just means you need your insurance company to file an SR-22 form for you, but it also means you’ll be labeled a high-risk driver and it may be hard for you to find car insurance from a standard company (let alone affordable rates). 

Ways to avoid texting and driving

If you feel tempted to text and drive, there are ways to avoid it and keep yourself safe on the road, including:

  • Put your phone away: If possible, put your phone out of reach. Keeping your phone in your glove box, trunk, or back seat is a good way to guarantee you won’t be able to use it while driving.

  • Set up do not disturb: There are a number of apps that can prevent your phone from being a distraction while you drive, but you can use the do not disturb function on your phone to mute incoming calls and texts without downloading anything at all.

  • Give it to a passenger: If you have someone else riding with you, let them hold your phone. Your passenger can put your phone away or answer calls and texts for you so you can focus on the road.

Frequently asked questions

How many deaths from texting and driving 2022?

Data from 2022 is not yet available but, according to the IIHS, approximately 400 people die from cell phone-related accidents each year.

What causes more deaths drunk driving or texting?

According to the NHTSA, 3,142 people died due to distracted driving in 2020, while 11,654 people died in alcohol-related traffic deaths. However, the inconsistencies among how accidents are described on police crash report forms makes it clear that distracted driving injuries and deaths are undercounted.

What percentage of accidents are caused by cell phones?

According to the IIHS, tracking how cell phones affect car accidents is difficult because drivers typically don’t volunteer that they were on the phone at the time of an accident. However, they determined that at least one percent of people killed in car accidents in 2020 (about 396 people) died in crashes that involved cell phone use.

References

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Policygenius uses external sources, including government data, industry studies, and reputable news organizations to supplement proprietary marketplace data and internal expertise. Learn more about how we use and vet external sources as part of oureditorial standards.

  1. CDC

    . "

    Distracted driving

    ." Accessed February 03, 2023.

  2. National Safety Council

    . "

    Do Teens Admit to Texting and Driving?

    ." Accessed February 03, 2023.

  3. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

    . "

    Overview of Motor Vehicle Crashes in 2020

    ." Accessed February 03, 2023.

  4. U.S. Department of Transportation NHTSA

    . "

    Effect of Electronic Device Use On Pedestrian Safety: A Literature Review

    ." Accessed February 03, 2023.

Author

Rachael Brennan is a senior editor and a licensed auto insurance expert at Policygenius. Her work has also been featured in MoneyGeek, Clearsurance, Adweek, Boston Globe, The Ladders, and AutoInsurance.com.

Editor

Anna Swartz is a senior managing editor and auto insurance expert at Policygenius, where she oversees our car insurance coverage. Previously, she was a senior staff writer at Mic.com, as well as an associate writer at The Dodo.

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