Skip to Content
Streetsblog USA home
Streetsblog USA home
Log In
Car crashes

Three-Quarters of Licensed Drivers Used a Mobile Device While Driving, New Survey Finds 

PSAs, like this one from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, are no match for the temptation to use cell phones while driving.

A whopping 70 percent of drivers used their cellphones while driving in the last three months, according to a new survey — a startling statistic amid a nationwide spike in traffic crashes and fatalities.

And even more Americans — 86 percent — admitted to using a mobile device when driving for work over the same time period, according to the survey commissioned by Selective Insurance and Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, which also found that more than half of those polled said they support stricter measures to prevent distracted driving as the number of people killed in such crashes topped 3,000 in the U.S. in 2020.

“This survey reveals the deadly and dangerous decisions by drivers contributing to this horrific fatality and injury toll,” said Cathy Chase, president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety. “The public understands this hazard and strongly supports numerous strategies to prevent distraction and its impacts, especially requiring advanced vehicle safety technologies in all new vehicles, which continues to be a top priority of Advocates.”

What’s more, almost a third of those who said they used a mobile device while driving for work had actually engaged in a video call while driving, the survey found — including former New York Council Member Helen Rosenthal (D-Manhattan), who was caught last year zooming while on a Zoom call.

Among the other findings:

    • 73 percent said they talked, video called, or texted while driving
    • 45 percent said they checked social media or used an app
    • 30 percent said they took a photo
    • 25 percent said they checked or sent an email

“With more drivers back on the roads and the increasing popularity of virtual work and video calls, it’s more important than ever that employers develop and enforce distracted driving policies to keep employees and the general public safe on the roads,” said Brenda Hall of Selective Insurance.

The survey, conducted online earlier this month, polled 2,073 U.S. adults 18 years and older, of whom 1,848 were licensed drivers. The questions did not differentiate between using a handheld device, or texting while driving, and using a mounted cell phone or Bluetooth-linked device, as the legality of using mobile devices while driving differs across each state.

But the survey also found that traffic violence tragically affects everyone — nearly one-third of Americans said they personally had either been in a crash involving distracted driving due to using a mobile device, or know someone who was. Younger Americans, ages 18 to 44, were overwhelmingly more likely (46 percent) to be involved in, or know someone who had been involved in, a distracted driving-related crash, compared to Americans age 45 and older (18 percent).

And on the heels of the nationwide survey, which also found that the majority of Americans said they favor more robust policies to curb distracted driving — including 57 percent saying they support higher penalties and traffic fines — advocates are calling on the U.S. Department of Transportation to immediately address the rise in traffic violence caused by distracted driving, especially as April marks Distracted Driving Awareness Month.

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter

More from Streetsblog USA

Friday’s Headlines Are Still Unsafe

Traffic deaths are declining for those ensconced in thousands of pounds of steel. For the rest of us, not so much.

April 12, 2024

Measure HLA Is Now Officially Law for L.A. City

Check the city maps to find what bus, bike, and walk improvements are coming to streets in your neighborhood.

April 12, 2024

Talking Headways Podcast: Women’s Transportation Seminar

Sara Stickler of WTS International on women’s expertise in transportation and opportunities for mentorship, leadership and education.

April 11, 2024

Don’t Call Thursday’s Headlines a Comeback

Transit ridership isn't all the way back yet, but it continues to climb after collapsing during COVID. Unfortunately, the financial effects of the pandemic on transit agencies still linger.

April 11, 2024

Long-Awaited Report Reveals Widespread Parking Crime by NYPD

The overdue report confirms years of Streetsblog reporting on placard abuse, illegal parking and enforcement failures by the police under two mayors.

April 11, 2024
See all posts