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.

Key findings:

  • 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.

Worst states for distracted driving
Rank State Fatal crashes involving a distracted driver Total fatal crashes Percent of fatal crashes involving distracted driving
1 New Mexico 693 1,853 37%
2 Hawaii 118 483 24%
3 New Jersey 618 2,857 22%
4 Kansas 409 1,898 22%
5 Washington 545 2,679 20%
6 Louisiana 679 3,754 18%
7 Kentucky 573 3,495 16%
8 Illinois 634 5,183 12%
9 New York 563 4,785 12%
10 Idaho 118 1,072 11%
11 Virginia 444 4,037 11%
12 Massachusetts 176 1,718 10%
13 Texas 1,735 17,549 10%
14 Wyoming 51 541 9%
15 Colorado 272 2,945 9%
16 Oklahoma 256 3,081 8%
17 Missouri 361 4,377 8%
18 Florida 1,229 15,342 8%
19 Maine 55 719 8%
20 Maryland 195 2,567 8%
21 Wisconsin 203 2,746 7%
22 North Carolina 492 6,935 7%
23 Minnesota 130 1,843 7%
24 New Hampshire 37 526 7%
25 North Dakota 33 473 7%
26 Montana 63 914 7%
27 Arizona 327 4,772 7%
28 Delaware 38 574 7%
29 Vermont 19 294 6%
30 Nebraska 63 1,032 6%
31 Michigan 295 4,835 6%
32 Iowa 94 1,544 6%
33 Alabama 248 4,333 6%
34 Alaska 18 318 6%
35 Utah 71 1,258 6%
36 South Carolina 275 4,897 6%
37 Pennsylvania 301 5,389 6%
38 Tennessee 295 5,304 6%
39 West Virginia 72 1,298 6%
40 Oregon 128 2,316 6%
41 Ohio 298 5,525 5%
42 Indiana 203 4,044 5%
43 South Dakota 25 572 4%
44 Georgia 282 7,413 4%
45 Connecticut 48 1,338 4%
46 California 629 18,137 3%
47 Rhode Island 10 313 3%
48 Arkansas 82 2,664 3%
49 Nevada 47 1,545 3%
50 Mississippi 62 3,167 2%
  United States 14,620 177,409 8%
Source: NHTSA

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
Alabama No Yes
Alaska No Yes
Arizona Yes Yes
Arkansas No Yes
California Yes Yes
Colorado No Yes
Connecticut Yes Yes
Delaware Yes Yes
Florida No Yes
Georgia Yes Yes
Hawaii Yes Yes
Idaho Yes Yes
Illinois Yes Yes
Indiana Yes Yes
Iowa No Yes
Kansas No Yes
Kentucky No Yes
Louisiana No Yes
Maine Yes Yes
Maryland Yes Yes
Massachusetts Yes Yes
Michigan No Yes
Minnesota Yes Yes
Mississippi No Yes
Missouri No No
Montana No No
Nebraska No Yes
Nevada Yes Yes
New Hampshire Yes Yes
New Jersey Yes Yes
New Mexico No Yes
New York Yes Yes
North Carolina No Yes
North Dakota No Yes
Ohio No Yes
Oklahoma No Yes
Oregon Yes Yes
Pennsylvania No Yes
Rhode Island Yes Yes
South Carolina No Yes
South Dakota No Yes
Tennessee Yes Yes
Texas No Yes
Utah No Yes
Vermont Yes Yes
Virginia Yes Yes
Washington Yes Yes
West Virginia Yes Yes
Wisconsin No Yes
Wyoming No Yes
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
No violations $2,131  
Texting while driving $2,706 27%
Speeding $2,691 26%
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.


QuoteWizard.com LLC has made every effort to ensure that the information on this site is correct, but we cannot guarantee that it is free of inaccuracies, errors, or omissions. All content and services provided on or through this site are provided "as is" and "as available" for use. QuoteWizard.com LLC makes no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, as to the operation of this site or to the information, content, materials, or products included on this site. You expressly agree that your use of this site is at your sole risk.