In 2023, distracted driving continues to be a pressing issue –– nine fatalities occur every day due to distracted driving. The consequences can range from fender benders to devastating accidents. Beyond the immediate safety risks, crashes caused by distracted driving can have long-lasting effects on various aspects of our lives, including our finances.
One area significantly impacted is car insurance rates, as insurance companies often increase premiums for individuals with a history of texting and driving offenses. The consequences of these offenses extend beyond the immediate financial burden of potential fines. Insurance companies view these offenses as indicators of higher accident risk, resulting in substantial increases in car insurance premiums.
To understand how prevalent distracted driving is on roads today, we surveyed over 3,200 U.S. drivers about their distracted driving habits from texting and checking their phones to applying makeup and changing music. Further, we wanted to find out which states had the most distracted drivers based on how often residents in each state are texting while driving.
Which States Have the Most Distracted Drivers?
37% of U.S. drivers have texted while driving in the past month. When we zoom in on drivers in each state, certain states engage in more risky behaviors than others. In both Mississippi and New Hampshire, 50% of drivers admit to texting while driving in the past 30 days. Other states with the highest percentage of residents who have texted while driving in the last month are Missouri (49%), Alabama (48.1%), and Louisiana (48.1%) –– out of those five states, three are located in the Deep South.
On the other hand, the states who have texted while driving the least in the last 30 days are New York, Pennsylvania, Oregon, and New Jersey.
Similarly, drivers in West Virginia, Missouri, Texas, Rhode Island, and Tennessee tend to send the most texts while driving. West Virginia drivers text while driving 11.3 times a month on average, while Missouri drivers text while driving 10.9 times a month. In Texas, drivers admit to texting behind the wheel 8.5 times a month. For context, the average American driver texts while driving 4.8 times a month.
In contrast, drivers in New York, Nebraska, Minnesota, Oregon, and Maine send the fewest texts while driving each month on average.
What Are the Most Common Distracted Driving Behaviors?
Driving while distracted is a dangerous practice that poses a significant risk to every driver on the road. One key step to improving safety behind the wheel is understanding the most common distracted driving behaviors and raising awareness to promote safer driving habits. According to survey results, we found that these behaviors are the most prevalent distractions among drivers:
Selecting Music: A staggering 68.9% of drivers are guilty of selecting music while behind the wheel. Adjusting audio settings or searching for a preferred playlist on your phone can increase the likelihood of an accident.
Checking the GPS: Over half (56.1%) of drivers admit to checking their GPS devices or navigation systems while driving. Monitoring directions or inputting destinations without parking first can impair drivers’ ability to focus on the road.
Interacting with Adults in the Car: About 54.8% of drivers engage in conversations or interactions with adults who are with them in the vehicle. Engaging in emotionally charged discussions can divert attention from driving and compromise situational awareness.
Eating Food: Approximately 37.5% of drivers admit to eating while driving. Eating meals or snacks behind the wheel can be a dangerous distraction, as drivers handle food items and divert their attention from the road.
Interacting with Children in the Car: Around 21.1% of drivers report being distracted by their kids while traveling. Conversations, disciplining children, or attending to their needs can divert attention and increase the risk of accidents.
Texting and Emailing: Despite the well-known risks, 19.2% of drivers still text while driving. Typing, reading, or sending text messages diverts a driver’s attention visually, cognitively, and manually, significantly increasing the chances of collisions. Similarly, around 9.6% of drivers admit to checking their email while driving.
Making a Phone Call: Approximately 18.1% of drivers admit to making phone calls without using hands-free devices while driving. While seemingly not as dangerous as texting and driving, using handheld devices to make calls requires visual and cognitive attention, leading to distracted driving and decreased reaction times.
Grooming and Applying Makeup: Approximately 11.9% of drivers look at themselves in the mirror while driving. Activities like styling hair or adjusting makeup can divert attention from the road and increase the risk of accidents. Although less common, about 2.1% of drivers apply makeup while driving.
Checking Social Media: Approximately 7.4% of drivers look at their social media feeds while driving. Scrolling through social media or posting updates diverts attention from the road, impairing a driver’s ability to anticipate and respond to traffic situations.
Unveiling America’s Distracted Driving Habits
Distracted driving encompasses a variety of behaviors that turn a driver’s attention away from the road, posing a significant safety risk. One phenomenon that frequently occurs is known as highway hypnosis. Highway hypnosis, or “white line fever” is a trance-like state where a driver becomes mentally detached from their driving environment.
This phenomenon often occurs during lengthy and monotonous journeys on highways or freeways. When drivers enter this state, they may lose awareness of time, distance, and potential hazards on the road. We found that 54% of drivers have experienced highway hypnosis at some point while driving.
Along with highway hypnosis, a few other distracted driving insights caught our attention:
- 37% of U.S. drivers regularly ignore no-texting laws while driving, yet only 2.9% of drivers have been pulled over while doing so.
- 20% of drivers don’t know if their state has a law banning texting while driving.
- 86% of Americans say they would feel unsafe in a car with a driver who was texting, but only 47% of Americans say they would feel unsafe if they were the ones texting while driving.
- 26% of drivers have driven with AirPods or earphones in their ears.
- 46% of drivers have honked their horns at another driver who was texting while driving.
Not only does distracted driving pose immediate safety risks, but it also carries significant financial consequences, particularly when it comes to car insurance rates.
Insurance companies often view texting and driving offenses as indicative of a higher likelihood of accidents, resulting in substantial increases in car insurance premiums for those with such violations. It is crucial to drive safely and invest in an auto insurance plan that offers comprehensive coverage to protect yourself from the costs of distracted driving,
By prioritizing road safety, making informed decisions, and advocating for responsible driving, we can reduce distracted driving incidents and create a safer environment for all road users.
To find the most common distracted driving behaviors and the states with the most distracted drivers, Assurance IQ surveyed 3,209 U.S. drivers across 44 states and a wide array of demographics from April 25 to May 12, 2023. Due to insufficient survey respondents, Alaska, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming were excluded from the analysis.