Published: April 21, 2022Updated: July 28, 2022

Teen Distracted Driving Report for 2022

Teens are the most likely group to get into car accidents, and distracted driving is a prime culprit.

Teens aren’t the only group guilty of distracted driving (driving while performing another activity, like texting or talking on the phone). However, because teens have the least driving experience, distracted driving can be especially dangerous in their hands, causing high accident and fatality rates.

We asked over 240 United States adults ages 18 to 24 about their distracted driving habits and combined their responses with federal data to learn more about teen distracted driving. Here are our key findings:

  • 9 in 10 adults ages 18 to 24 talk on the phone while driving, while 8 in 10 write, send, or read text messages or emails while driving.
  • Overall, 15- to 20-year-olds are 33 percent more likely to die in crashes related to distracted driving than the national average across all age groups.
  • Only 16 percent of 14- and 15-year-olds, mostly permit-holders whose parents or guardians must accompany them, text or email while driving. By the time they are 18, have regular licenses, and can drive unsupervised, that number increases to 60 percent.

Teen Distracted Driving Facts and Statistics

Teen Distracted Driving Facts and Statistics

Although our survey segment included ages 20 to 24 as well as 18 and 19, it gave us useful insights about how often teens drive while distracted.

How often do you do the following activities while driving? Never Rarely (less than 10% of the time) Occasionally (10%-30% of the time) Sometimes (30%-50% of the time) Frequently (50%-70% of the time) Usually (70%-90% of the time) Every time
Use apps for maps or directions 7% 3% 8% 15% 33% 26% 7%
Eat or drink 9% 18% 26% 26% 14% 6% 2%
Talk on the phone 10% 22% 25% 22% 15% 7% 0%
Write, send, or read text messages or emails 20% 25% 22% 18% 9% 5% 1%
Interact on social media 56% 19% 11% 7% 5% 0% 2%
Look at photos on phone 68% 17% 6% 4% 3% 2% 0%
Watch short videos 76% 13% 5% 4% 2% 0% 0%
Watch movies 92% 4% 1% 2% 1% 0% 0%
Play games 93% 4% 1% 1% 0% 0% 1%

The most common form of distracted driving is using phones for maps or directions while driving, which 93 percent of adults ages 18 to 24 admitted to. The second most common is eating or drinking while driving (91 percent), followed by talking on the phone (90 percent). Eight out of 10 respondents ages 18 to 24 text and drive — a dangerous habit even if done sparingly.

Teen Texting and Driving Statistics

Many people believe it’s OK to text if they are stopped or at a red light, but in the eyes of the law, this could still violate a state ban on texting and driving. Even so, nearly half of young drivers have texted or emailed while driving in the last week alone.

When was the last time you texted or emailed while driving (even if you were waiting in traffic or at a red light)? Percentage of respondents
I don’t recall or I’d rather not say 5%
In the last week 49%
More than a week ago but less than a month ago 30%
More than a month ago 15%

Unfortunately, as young adults gain more years of driving under their belts, their rates of texting or emailing while driving increase, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Percentage of respondents who texted or emailed while driving in 2019

We believe this increase is due to changes in state restrictions for permits versus junior licenses versus graduated licenses.

While most 14- and 15-year olds drive with permits and must be accompanied by a parent or guardian, by the time they get their regular licenses, they can drive without supervision, which leads to more distracted driving. By age 18, 6 in 10 people text and email while driving. This correlates with other risky behaviors, such as not wearing a seat belt, riding with a drunk driver, or driving under the influence themselves.1

Texting and driving isn’t only dangerous, but also costly. The fines for texting and driving in New York, for example, range from $50 to $450 based on the offense number, while the fines for texting and driving in California range from $20 to $450.

Do Not Disturb and Hands-Free Modes

Although electronic device manufacturers implement programs to prevent people from using their phones while driving, such as Do Not Disturb mode, only 5 percent always use these features. Over half of 18- to 24-year-olds never use them.

How often do you set your phone to Do Not Disturb or driving mode to mute calls and notifications while you’re driving? Percentage of respondents
Never 54%
Rarely 14%
Sometimes 15%
Often 12%
Always 5%

Some states only ban the use of handheld devices, allowing drivers to talk on the phone over a speaker. Hands-free modes are more commonly used than Do Not Disturb or driving modes, with over 64 percent of young adults always talking hands-free while driving.

Which of these best describes how you talk on a phone call while driving? Percentage of respondents
I always talk hands-free 64%
I always talk while holding my phone 8%
Some of both 28%

In 95 percent of cases, distracted driving does not lead to accidents. However, 5 percent of respondents admitted to having been in an accident or fender bender due to distracted driving, including incidents where theirs were the only cars involved.

The Effects of Teen Distracted Driving

In 2019, a total of 3,142 people were killed in car crashes that involved distracted driving. Drivers ages 15 to 19 make up the plurality, representing 9 percent of the total (283 people). Drivers ages 15 to 19 are 33 percent more likely to die in motor vehicle crashes related to distracted driving than the rest of the population, according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).2

How to Prevent Teen Distracted Driving

If you’re a parent of a teen driver, it’s important to help them understand the dangers of distracted driving and set ground rules to avoid it. Here are the CDC’s teen driver safety tips on distracted driving:

  • Show them the statistics. To help them grasp the severity of distracted driving, show your teen the hard statistics on its correlation with traffic fatalities. Answering a quick text message could lead to injuries or worse.
  • Learn your state laws. Look up your state’s graduated driver licensing system guidelines and state laws surrounding handheld device usage (listed below). Note that teen driving laws often differ from laws for those over 18.
  • Set consequences. Aside from telling your teen the medical and legal consequences of distracted driving, set your own consequences for driving distracted, like taking away their smartphone or driving privileges.
  • Set an example. Most importantly, don’t break your own rules and drive distracted yourself. This will set a poor example for your child, who will be less likely to follow your rules (and the rules of the state).

Types of Distracted Driving

Distracted driving can be divided into three major categories, according to the NHTSA.

  • Visual: Taking your eyes off the road
  • Cognitive: Taking your mind off the road
  • Manual: Taking your hands off the wheel

These are some examples of distracted driving:

  • Talking or texting
  • Applying makeup
  • Looking at photos
  • Playing games
  • Drinking coffee
  • Managing children3

State and Federal Role in Distracted Driving

State and Federal Role in Distracted Driving

The state and federal government both take a role in setting and enforcing laws to prevent distracted driving.

State Laws

You and your teen should both be familiar with your state’s distracted driving laws — and the penalties for breaking them.

State Are cell phones banned for teen drivers? Enforcement Penalty Fines for texting and driving Points per violation
Alabama Yes, for 16-year-old drivers and 17-year-old drivers with intermediate licenses for less than 6 months Primary Fine $25 for first offense

$50 for second offense

$75 for subsequent offenses
2
Alaska No Primary Fine Up to $500 2
Arizona Yes, for anyone with a learner’s permit or intermediate license during the first 6 months after they receive their licenses Primary

Secondary for anyone with a learner’s permit or intermediate license during the first 6 months after they receive their licenses
Fine $75-$149 for first offense

$150-$250 for subsequent offenses
2
Arkansas Yes, for all drivers under 18 Primary Fine $25-$250 for first offense

$50-$500 for subsequent offenses

Potential double fines if texting while driving causes an accident
2
California Yes, for all drivers under 18 Primary for handheld device use and texting by drivers 18 and older

Secondary for drivers under 18
Fine $20 for first offense

$50 for subsequent offenses
1
Colorado Yes, for all drivers under 18 Primary Fine

Possible imprisonment if involving injuries or death
Minors: $50 for first offense; $100 for subsequent offenses

Adults: $300 for each offense; possibly $1,000 if someone is injured in an accident caused by texting while driving
1 for minors

4 for adults
Connecticut Yes, for all drivers under 18 Primary Fine $150 for first offense

$300 for second offense

$500 for subsequent offenses
1
Delaware Yes, for anyone with a learner’s permit or intermediate license Primary Fine $100 for first offense

$200-$300 for subsequent offenses
2
District of Columbia Yes, for all drivers under 18 Primary Fine $100 0
Florida No Primary Fine $30 for first offense

$60 for second offense within 5 years of first

$60 for violations in school and work zones
0 for first offense

3 for subsequent offenses within 5 years of first

3 for violations in school and work zones
Georgia No Primary Fine $50 for first offense

$100 for second offense

$150 for third offense within 24 months of first
1 for first offense

2 for second offense

3 for third offense
Hawaii Yes, for all drivers under 18 Primary Fine $250

$300 for violations in school or work zones
0
Idaho No Primary Fine $75 for first offense

$150 for second offense within a 3-year period

$300 for each subsequent offense within a 3-year period
0 for first offense

1 for each subsequent offense
Illinois Yes, for drivers and learner’s permit holders under 19 Primary Fine $75 for first offense

$100 for second offense

$125 for third offense

$150 for fourth and subsequent offenses
5
Indiana Yes, for drivers under 21 Primary Fine Up to $500 2
Iowa Yes, for anyone with a learner’s permit or intermediate license Primary Fine $45 2
Kansas Yes, for anyone with a learner’s permit or intermediate license Primary Fine $60 0
Kentucky Yes, for drivers under 18 Primary Fine $25 for first offense

$50 for subsequent offenses
3
Louisiana Yes, for all novice drivers Primary

Secondary for novice drivers ages 18 and up
Fine

Possible community service (at judge’s discretion)

60-day driver’s license suspension for subsequent offenses
$25-$500 for first offense

Up to $1,000 for subsequent offenses
0
Maine Yes, for anyone with a learner’s permit or intermediate license Primary Fine

License suspension for 30-90 days for subsequent violations within 3-year period
$250 minimum for first offense

$500 minimum for subsequent offenses within 3-year period
2
Maryland Yes, for drivers under 18 Primary Fine $70 (including court fees)

$110 if violation results in car crash
1

3 if violation results in car crash
Massachusetts Yes, for drivers under 18 Primary Fine

Distracted driving educational program completion after second offense

Insurance surcharge after third offense
$100 for first offense

$250 for second offense

$500 for subsequent offenses
2
Michigan Yes, for anyone with a learner’s permit or intermediate license levels 1 and 2 (OK to use integrated voice-operated systems) Primary Fine $100 for first offense

$200 for subsequent offenses
0 for regular motorists

2 for school bus or commercial driver violators
Minnesota Yes, for anyone with a learner’s permit or provisional license during the first year after licensing Primary Fine

Potential insurance rate increase

Potential felony charge of criminal vehicular operation or homicide if a driver injures or kills someone with hands-free law violation
$120 minimum (including court fees) for first offense

$300 minimum (including court fees) for subsequent offenses
0
Mississippi No Primary Fine $100 0
Missouri No Primary Fine $200 2
Montana No N/A None None 0
Nebraska Yes, for anyone under 18 with a learner’s permit or intermediate license Secondary Fine $200 for first offense

$300 for second offense

$500 for subsequent offenses
3
Nevada No Primary Fine $50 for first offense

$100 for second offense within 7 years of first

$250 for subsequent offenses
4 for second and subsequent offenses
New Hampshire Yes, for drivers under 18 Primary Fine

Possible license suspension for violators under 18
$100 for first offense

$250 for second offense

$500 for subsequent offenses within 24-month period
2
New Jersey Yes, for anyone with a learner’s permit or intermediate license Primary Fine

Possible license suspension
$200-$400 for first offense

$400-$600 for second offense

$600-$800 for subsequent offenses
3 for third and subsequent offenses
New Mexico Yes, for anyone with a learner’s permit or intermediate license Primary Fine $25 for first offense

$50 for subsequent offenses
0
New York No Primary Fine Up to $200 for first offense

Up to $250 for second offense within 18 months

Up to $450 for subsequent offenses
5
North Carolina Yes, for drivers under 18 Primary Fine $100 1
North Dakota Yes, for drivers under 18 Primary Fine $100

$20 for 14- to 17-year-old violators
4 for 14- and 15-year-old violators
Ohio Yes, for drivers under 18 Secondary

Primary for drivers under 18
Fine

License suspension for drivers under 18
$150 for first offense

$300 for second offenses by drivers under 18
2
Oklahoma No Primary Fine $100 0
Oregon Yes, for drivers under 18 Primary Fine

Possible 6-month jail time for third or subsequent offense within 10 years
Up to $1,000 for first offense

Up to $2,000 for second offense

Up to $2,500 for subsequent offense within 10 years
0
Pennsylvania No Primary Fine $50 0
Rhode Island Yes, for drivers under 18 Primary Fine

Possible license suspension — up to 30 days for first offense, 3 months for second offense, 6 months for subsequent offenses
$100 for first offense

$150 for second offense

$250 for subsequent offenses
0
South Carolina No Primary Fine $25 0
South Dakota Yes, for anyone with a learner’s permit or intermediate license Primary

Secondary for anyone with a learner’s permit or intermediate license
Fine $100 0
Tennessee Yes, for anyone with a learner’s permit or intermediate license Primary Fine $50 for first offense

$100 for subsequent offenses
3

6 for drivers under 18
Texas Yes, for drivers under 18 Primary Fine $25-$100 for first offense

$100-$200 for subsequent offenses
0
Utah Yes, for drivers under 18 Primary Fine

Possible jail time for subsequent offenses within 3 years
$100 for first offense

Up to $1,000 for subsequent offenses within 3 years
50
Vermont Yes, for drivers under 18 Primary Fine $100-$200 for first offense

$250-$500 for subsequent offenses within 2 years
2
Virginia No Primary Fine $125 for first offense

$250 for subsequent offenses
3
Washington Yes, for anyone with a learner’s permit or intermediate license Primary Fine $136 for first offense

$234 for subsequent offenses within 5 years
0
West Virginia Yes, for drivers under 18 who hold a learner’s permit or intermediate license Primary Fine $100 for first offense

$200 for second offense

$300 for subsequent offenses
3 for third or subsequent offense
Wisconsin Yes, for anyone with a learner’s permit or intermediate license Primary Fine $20-$40 for first offense

$50-$100 for subsequent offenses
4
Wyoming No Primary Fine $75 04

Federal Laws

While the federal government doesn’t have any overarching laws on distracted driving, it rewards states that do have those laws with federal grants. The Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, for example, created a special grant for distracted driving laws. To qualify, states must enact and enforce a ban on the use of electronic devices for drivers under 18. Among other requirements, they must also include awareness of distracted driving on the driver’s license exam.

In 2016, the NHTSA released voluntary guidelines for the manufacturers of electronic devices to address the issue of distracted driving. It included ideas about infotainment systems and driver mode, as much of distracted driving comes from cell phone use.56

Conclusion

While distracted driving by teens is a pervasive issue in the U.S., you can get ahead of the problem by educating yourself and your teen. With the right information at hand, you can encourage safe driving and keep your teen’s eyes, mind, and hands on the wheel at all times. To learn more, read our car insurance research, which covers topics like uninsured motorists and hit-and-runs.

Methodology

On Dec. 16 and 17, 2021, we conducted an online survey via SurveyMonkey and Prolific of 242 U.S. adults ages 18 to 24. All of the participants had driver’s licenses and drove at least once per month. Here is more demographic information about the participants:

  • They were 68 percent female, 29 percent male, and 3 percent other.
  • 81 percent had iPhones, while 19 percent had Androids.

The survey results have a margin of error of 2 to 3 percent.

We also included third-party data from these state and federal government sources:

  • California Highway Patrol
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • Federal Highway Administration
  • Governors Highway Safety Association
  • National Conference of State Legislatures
  • National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
  • U.S. National Archives

Citations

  1. Transportation Risk Behaviors Among High School Students — Youth Risk Behavior Survey, United States, 2019. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, Aug 21).
    https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/su/su6901a9.htm?s_cid=su6901a9_w#T1_down

  2. TRAFFIC SAFETY FACTS. U.S Department of Transportation. (2021, Apr).
    https://crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Public/ViewPublication/813111

  3. TRAFFIC SAFETY PARTNERS STRESS DANGERS OF DISTRACTED DRIVING. California Highway Patrol. (2021, Apr 1).
    https://www.chp.ca.gov/PressReleases/Pages/TRAFFIC-SAFETY-PARTNERS-STRESS-DANGERS-OF-DISTRACTED-DRIVING.aspx

  4. Distracted Driving. Governors Highway Safety Association. (2020, Aug 21).
    https://www.ghsa.org/state-laws/issues/distracted%20driving

  5. State and Federal Efforts to Reduce Distracted Driving. National Conference of State Legislatures. (2018, Jun).
    https://www.ncsl.org/research/transportation/state-and-federal-efforts-to-reduce-distracted-driving.aspx

  6. Visual-Manual NHTSA Driver Distraction Guidelines for Portable and Aftermarket Devices. Federal Register. (2016, Dec 5).
    https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2016/12/05/2016-29051/visual-manual-nhtsa-driver-distraction-guidelines-for-portable-and-aftermarket-devices