Top 10 U.S. states and cities with the most distracted drivers in 2018

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UPDATED: 2018-06-18T16:23:58.537Z
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A man drives his car distracted while talking on the phone and holding a coffee cup in his left hand

Unfortunately, drivers are distracted while behind the wheel of their vehicle just about everywhere. In the age of smartphones, it has become a huge safety issue for everyone on the road, and the prevalence of cell phone use while driving has escalated substantially. Many states have adapted laws against using cell phones while driving in an effort to make the roads safer and prevent drivers from succumbing to the urge to check their devices while behind the wheel.

What exactly constitutes distracted driving? While we most commonly think of distracted driving as people who use their cell phones while driving, that’s not the only distraction drivers face. Distracted driving also includes eating or drinking, talking to other people in the car or changing the radio while driving. In essence, it’s any activity that takes your attention away from driving your car. To learn more about the dangers of distracted driving, read our blog on distracted driving statistics.

Zendrive completed a distracted driving behavior study and found that on average, more than 60 percent of drivers use their phones at least once while driving. Taking your eyes off the road for just two seconds can increase your chances of an accident by over 20 times, and two seconds is enough to travel the length of two basketball courts if you are going 55 mph. The study also found that of the drivers studied who used their phones while driving, they spent an average of 3 minutes and 40 seconds per hour on their phones while behind the wheel.

Distracted or impaired driving is an issue for drivers all across the United States, but it’s more common in some states than others. Zendrive compiled a rank of the level of distracted driving in all U.S. states based on data collected from a three-month sample from December 2017 to February 2018 over which time they tracked 4.5 million people who drove 7.1 billion miles. According to Zendrive’s study, Oregon drivers are the least distracted and Montana drivers are the second least distracted. But which states are top offenders of distracted driving this year?

Top 10 most distracted states (from most distracted to least distracted)

  1. Mississippi
  2. Rhode Island
  3. Louisiana
  4. Oklahoma
  5. Connecticut
  6. Texas
  7. Arkansas
  8. Massachusetts
  9. Washington D.C.
  10. Kentucky

Across the board, distracted driving has increased in almost every state from 2017 to 2018. The only state that saw decreases in distracted driving is Vermont, which ranked as the most distracted state in 2017 but dropped to the 15th most distracted in 2018.

The state in the top 10 that has seen the biggest increase in cell phone use while driving is Rhode Island. In 2017, the average percentage of time Rhode Island drivers spent using their phone while driving per day was 5.58 percent, but it rose to 7.74 percent in 2018. Drivers in Mississippi, the most distracted state, spent an average of 7.9 percent of their driving time each day on their phones in 2018.

Laws against hand-held device usage prohibit drivers from using their devices while driving unless they are mounted and out of the hands of the driver, making the driver free from that distraction. The only states in the top 10 with a complete ban on cell phone use while driving are Rhode Island, Connecticut and Washington D.C.

While 47 states and Washington D.C. have a ban on texting and driving, only 16 states and D.C. have a no-tolerance hand-held phone ban. Many states have specific laws on cell-phone use or texting, including banning drivers of a certain age from engaging in this activity while driving. Additionally, some cities and towns have their own bans.

Generally speaking, bans on cell phone use seem to have little effect on distracted driving rates. Vermont is the only state out of the 16 with the full state-wide hand-held ban that saw a decrease in phone use. See where your state ranks with the full report.

Below is a list of the top 10 most distracted cities that Zendrive determined from its 2018 data.

Top 10 cities with the most distracted drivers (from most distracted to least distracted)

  1. Houston, TX
  2. Miami, FL
  3. Detroit, MI
  4. San Jose, CA
  5. Los Angeles (County), CA
  6. Los Angeles – Long Beach – Anaheim, CA
  7. Boston – Cambridge – Newton, MA
  8. San Francisco, CA
  9. Denver – Aurora, CO
  10. Philadelphia, PA

Like the rates on the state level, cell phone use while driving has increased in every city observed. Of the cities in the top 10 list, the California cities are the only ones that are part of a state that has state-wide hands-free laws. Houston has city-specific hand-held cell phone use bans. Miami and Philadelphia have laws prohibiting drivers from sending or receiving any messages but allow drivers to make phone calls.

Boston and Detroit have similar laws except that drivers under the age of 18 in all of Massachusetts or under 17 in Michigan are prohibited from making calls or using their phones at all. Michigan also bans commercial vehicle and school bus drivers from making calls unless using hands-free technology. Likewise, Denver’s law prohibits drivers under the age of 18 from using their phone and all drivers are punishable if they engage in unsafe driving because of cell phone use.

Safe driving tips

Cities and states have different laws regarding the consequences and fines attached to a distracted driving offense, but regardless of the laws in place in your city or state, it’s a no-brainer that distracted driving is not something you should risk. Sending or reading messages or using social media or other apps while driving not only puts you in increased danger on the road, but also other drivers.

One of the most common reasons drivers use their phones while driving is for GPS navigation. Still, there are ways to do so while limiting the distraction. Mounting your cellphone or GPS system to your dashboard or windshield where it won’t be in the way and you won’t have to touch the device can make a big difference in driving safely while using navigation tools. Additionally, turning off your notifications while using GPS will avoid having distracting notifications pop up on your phone while you are trying to read the map and drive.

The mobile navigation app Waze launched a feature earlier in the year to their GPS app that helps users avoid distracted driving. You can read our blog “avoid distracted driving while using your mobile map” to learn more about this voice command feature that allows users to talk to the app without touching their cell phone screen or taking their hands off the wheel or eyes off the road.

There are many other ways that you can practice distraction-less driving. The city of Boston has a guide to tackling distracted driving, including helpful safety tips for all drivers. The guide advises drivers to turn off their phone before they get in their car or put it away to best avoid the distraction. You should choose your music, finish up your phone conversations, and start your GPS route before you put the car in drive. If you must make a call, use your phone to look up directions, or do any other activity that takes your eyes off the road, pull over to do so or ask your passengers to do it for you. In addition to these tips, drivers are advised to not eat, drink or engage in any other distracting activity even if it doesn’t involve your mobile device.

Driving with distractions can be life changing, and it is important to practice safe driving to lessen the risk of injury or death from an accident. Additionally, if you have a clean driving record free from violations, many insurance carriers will offer a safe driver discount on your auto insurance premium.

The content on this site is offered only as a public service to the web community and does not constitute solicitation or provision of legal advice. This site should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice from an insurance company or an attorney licensed or authorized to practice in your jurisdiction. You should always consult a suitably qualified attorney regarding any specific legal problem or matter. The comments and opinions expressed on this site are of the individual author and may not reflect the opinions of the insurance company or any individual attorney.

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