Cell Phone Use While Driving Accident Statistics

The National Safety Council (NSC) reports that more than 3,000 people are killed every year on U.S. roads in distracted driving crashes. 

Cell Phone Use is a Distraction

Cell phone use is a dangerous distraction, and texting is an even higher risk. Since cell phone use as a factor in car accidents is under-reported, the National Safety Council created its own Annual Estimate of Cell Phone Crashes data. The report includes property damage crashes, injury and fatal crashes. According to the estimates:

  • About 1.1 million crashes (20%) in 2013 involved talking on cell phones.
  • At least 341,000 of crashes (6%) in 2013 involved text messaging.
  • That's a total of 26% of crashes that involved drivers texting and talking on cell phones.

The NSC believes these new estimates provide critical data for legislators, business leaders, and individuals to evaluate the threat and need for legislation, business policies and personal actions to prevent cell phone use and texting while driving.

Banning Cell Phone Use While Driving

The NSC believes public support for laws banning cell phone use while driving is gaining momentum. In constructing its estimates, NSC used widely-accepted statistical methods and analysis based on data of driver cell phone use from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and from peer-reviewed research that quantifies the risk of using a cell phone and texting while driving. NSC's statistical model and estimates were peer-reviewed by academic researchers in traffic safety and biostatistics. 

NHTSA Data on Cellphone Use

The estimate of 26% of all crashes -- or 1.1 million accidents -- caused by cell phone use was derived from NHTSA data showing 11% of drivers at any one time are using cell phones, and from peer-reviewed research reporting, cell phone use increases crash risk by four times. The estimate of an additional minimum 3% of crashes -- or 200,000 accidents -- caused by texting was derived by NHTSA data showing 1% of drivers at any one time are manipulating their device in ways that include texting and from research reporting texting increases crash risk by 8 times. Using the highest risk for texting reported by the research of 23 times results in a maximum of one million crashes due to texting; still less than the 1.1 million accidents caused by other cell phone use.

Photo by Roman Pohorecki from Pexels

Editor’s Note: This page has been updated for accuracy and relevancy [cha 6.20.19]

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