Cell Phone Use While Driving Accident Statistics

cell phone

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

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.

Cell Phone Crash Statistics

The report includes property damage crashes, injury, and fatal crashes. According to the estimates:

  • Parents with small children were 13 percent more likely to be distracted while driving.
  • In 2017, 3,166 people were killed by distracted driving.
  • There were 34,247 distracted driving accidents in 2017.
  • There were 15,341 drivers involved in deadly crashes due to cell phone use.

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 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 of 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.

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.

Editor’s Note: This page has been updated for accuracy and relevancy [cha 4.15.21]

Photo by Roman Pohorecki from Pexels

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