Distracted Driving

Being an attentive and alert driver can help prevent crashes that lead to unintentional injury and death. With the wide use of smartphones in the United States, distracted driving has become an important traffic safety topic. While cell phones and navigation devices often are the culprit when it comes to distracted driving, conventional distractions such as interacting with passengers and eating also contribute to crashes. Distracting tasks can affect drivers in different ways and can be categorized as visual, manual, and cognitive distraction.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that 3,308 people died in distraction-affected crashes in 2022. This is a decrease of about 6% from 3,521 deaths in 2021. See Data Details to understand the data limitations and potential underestimation of the number of distraction-affected crashes.

Source: NSC analysis of NHTSA Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) data.

How Common is Driver Cell Phone Use?

Over the last 10 years, the prevalence of drivers using hand-held cell phones at any given daylight moment has decreased from 4.6% of drivers in 2013 to 2.1% in 2022. These figures are from the National Occupant Protection Use Survey (NOPUS) conducted by NHTSA, which is the only national estimate of driver cell phone use based on driver observations.

The percent of drivers manipulating hand-held electronic devices has increased 82%, from 1.7% in 2013 to 3.1% in 2022. Among other activities, this observation includes text messaging. Drivers observed with visible headsets remains low at 0.4% in 2022.

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Source: NHTSA. (2013 – 2024). Driver Electronic Device Use in 2011 through 2022: Traffic Safety Facts Research Notes.

This graph shows that the total number of fatal distraction-affected crashes decreased 5% in 2022 compared to 2021. However, distraction-affected fatal crashes have still increased 4% since 2013. The percent of fatal distraction-affected crashes involving cell phone use in 2022 was 12.1%, unchanged 2021.

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Source: NSC analysis of NHTSA FARS data.

See data details