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What is Distracted Driving?

Distracted driving is a huge topic right now, and has surpassed drunk driving as the number one topic of conversation about driving and the road. It does not discriminate; old or young, male or female, distracted driving affects us all.

But what exactly is distracted driving? Distracted driving is any activity that could divert a person's attention away from the primary task of driving. All distractions endanger driver, passenger, and bystander safety. These types of distractions include:

  • Texting
  • Using a cell phone or smartphone
  • Eating and drinking
  • Talking to passengers
  • Grooming
  • Reading, including maps
  • Using a navigation system
  • Watching a video
  • Adjusting a radio, CD player, or MP3 player
But, because text messaging requires visual, manual, and cognitive attention from the driver, it is by far the most alarming distraction.
The best way to end distracted driving is to educate all Americans about the danger it poses, not only to drivers, but also to roadside construction crews, emergency personnel, law enforcement officers, surveyors and more. 
On this page, you'll find facts and statistics that are powerfully persuasive. If you don't already think distracted driving is a safety problem, please take a moment to learn more. And, as with everything on Distraction.gov, please share these facts with others. Together, we can help save lives.
Key Facts and Statistics
  • In 2009, 5,474 people were killed in crashes involving driver distraction, and an estimated 448,000 were injured. (NHTSA)
  • 16% of fatal crashes in 2009 involved reports of distracted driving. (NHTSA)
  • 20% of injury crashes in 2009 involved reports of distracted driving. (NHTSA)
  • In the month of June 2011, more than 196 billion text messages were sent or received in the US, up nearly 50% from June 2009. (CTIA)
  • Teen drivers are more likely than other age groups to be involved in a fatal crash where distraction is reported. In 2009, 16% of teen drivers involved in a fatal crash were reported to have been distracted. (NHTSA)
  • 40% of all American teens say they have been in a car when the driver used a cell phone in a way that put people in danger. (Pew)
  • Drivers who use hand-held devices are 4 times more likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves. (Monash University)
  • Text messaging creates a crash risk 23 times worse than driving while not distracted. (VTTI)Sending or receiving a text takes a driver's eyes from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds, the equivalent-at 55 mph-of driving the length of an entire football field, blind. (VTTI)
  • Headset cell phone use is not substantially safer than hand-held use. (VTTI)
  • Using a cell phone while driving - whether it's hand-held or hands-free delays a driver's reactions as much as having a blood alcohol concentration at the legal limit of .08 percent. (University of Utah)
  • Driving while using a cell phone reduces the amount of brain activity associated with driving by 37%. (Carnegie Mellon)

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