Distracted driving has become so widespread that some call it an epidemic. Thousands of people die each year due to distracted driving.
The good news is that over the last 10 years, many efforts have been made to limit the use of handheld devices while driving. As a result, distracted driving is on the decline. In 2013, distracted driving fatalities accounted for 6.2% of all driving fatalities. Despite a decrease in distracted driving throughout the 2010s, it is once again on the rise and has increased by 7% since 2017.
To learn more about where these bad driving habits frequently occur, our team of analysts reviewed crash data to see which states have the most distracted drivers in the nation.
- New Mexico, Hawaii and New Jersey have the most distracted drivers.
- Mississippi, Nevada and Arkansas have the least distracted drivers.
- Distracted driving has increased by 7% since 2017.
- From 2017 to 2021, there were 14,620 fatal crashes involving distracted driving in the U.S.
- Ten percent of driver injuries due to crashes involve distracted driving.
What is distracted driving?
To put it simply: distracted driving means taking your eyes off the road. But there are many ways that drivers can become distracted at the wheel. Eating, talking with passengers and fiddling with your radio are all considered risky behaviors. According to the CDC, there are three main types of distractions:
- Visual: taking your eyes off the road
- Manual: taking your hands off the wheel
- Cognitive: taking your mind off driving
Talking and texting on cell phones is the leading cause of distracted driving incidents across the nation. The proliferation of smartphones only compounds drivers' level of distraction.
But distracted driving related to phones and other handheld devices is a fairly new occurrence. In 2001, New York became the first state to institute a ban on using handheld cell phones while driving. Since then, most states have followed suit by banning cell phone use while driving and issuing penalties.
States with the most distracted driving incidents
QuoteWizard analyzed National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) crash data to find which states have the highest rate of distracted driving crashes. We took the total number of fatal crashes involving distracted driving in each state from 2017 to 2021. We then ranked states based on the number of distracted driving car crashes as a percentage of total fatal car crashes. States are ranked from 1, the most distracted driving incidents, to 50, the least distracted driving incidents.
|Rank||State||Fatal crashes involving a distracted driver||Total fatal crashes||Percent of fatal crashes involving distracted driving|
Cell phone laws by state
Cell phone bans and penalties can only do so much to deter distracted driving. Mississippi, the least distracted state in our study, has a partial ban and no penalties on cell phones. New Mexico, the most distracted state in our study, also has a partial ban with no penalties.
Public awareness campaigns have been a common voice for the dangers of distracted driving. It Can Wait, sponsored by telecom service provider AT&T, and other campaigns sponsored by cell phone providers, often speak the loudest. Technology itself has become a solution. Besides hands-free talk and text functions, iPhone and Android operating systems can block incoming calls and text messages to keep distractions off phones.
|State||Handheld devices ban for all drivers||Texting ban for all drivers|
|Source: Bureau of Transportation Statistics|
“Distracted driving has brought senseless tragedy to too many families. The threat of a fine or higher insurance rates may be a deterrent to some, but we need to do more to make it clear that using a cell phone while driving is inexcusable.” — Rob Bhatt, QuoteWizard Analyst
Insurance penalties for distracted driving
In addition to fines and other criminal penalties, a higher insurance rate is another consequence for drivers who violate distracted driving laws.
Although insurance companies generally treat them as minor offenses, a citation for illegal cell phone use or texting while driving can still take a bite out of an offender’s budget.
For example, in states that ban texting while driving, violators pay an average 27% more for car insurance than those with a clean record. By comparison, a speeding ticket raises the average price of car insurance by 26%.
|Driving record||Annual rate||% increase|
|Texting while driving||$2,706||27%|
|Note: Full-coverage car insurance rates are based on non-binding estimates from Quadrant Information Services. Your rates may vary.|
QuoteWizard analyzed NHTSA fatality data to find which states have the highest rate of distracted driving fatalities. We took the total number of distracted driving fatalities in each state over the period of 2017 to 2021. We then ranked states based on the number of distracted driving car crashes as a percentage of total fatal car crashes. States are ranked from 1, the most distracted, to 50, the least distracted.
Car insurance rates are based on an analysis of quotes from California, Illinois, Ohio, Texas and Virginia for full-coverage policies.
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