Distracted driving

Distracted Driving Fell 4.5% in 2023, Preventing An Estimated 55,000 Crashes and 250 Fatalities

Annual report from Cambridge Mobile Telematics analyzes the factors that led to the first decrease in distracted driving since 2020 on US roads
April 4, 2024

Cambridge, MA, April 4, 2024Cambridge Mobile Telematics (CMT), the world’s largest telematics service provider, today announced the release of its annual report on distracted driving and road safety, “The State of US Road Risk in 2024.” The report, which includes analyses from over one billion car trips across millions of US drivers, shows that distracted driving fell by 4.5% in 2023, the first decrease since 2020. The report evaluates the various factors that can reduce distracted driving, including consent-driven usage-based insurance (UBI) programs, hands-free legislation, and increased media coverage of the dangers of distracted driving. CMT estimates this reduction in distracted driving helped prevent over 55,000 crashes, 31,000 injuries, 250 fatalities, and close to $2.2 billion in economic damages (from loss of work to medical costs and insurance costs avoided with safer driving) in the US in 2023.*

While a 4.5% reduction in distracted driving over the last year is an improvement, distracted driving is still dangerously high in the United States. For perspective, US drivers are 187% more distracted than UK drivers. In 2023, US drivers spent 2 minutes and 6 seconds interacting with their phones each hour they drove. While this marks a six-second decrease from 2022, this figure is still 17% higher than it was in 2020.

The report highlights the impact of distracted driving on both crash frequency and severity. For the first time, CMT has published data on how the different types of distracted driving affect the impact speed of a crash. For example, crashes where the driver is making a handheld phone call happened at speeds 31% higher than crashes without a handheld phone call. These heightened speeds increase crash severity — IIHS research shows that a 5 mph rise in speed limits results in an 8% increase in fatality rates. 

The report also explores the behaviors of 1.8 million drivers and their crash results. CMT uncovered that drivers who crashed in 2023 were 62% more distracted than drivers who didn’t crash. In a separate study, CMT found that drivers were distracted in the minute before a crash in 34% of crashes.

Auto insurers have led the way in road safety with UBI programs, which have grown in prominence over the past few years. Across the CMT platform, which powers the UBI programs for 21 of the top 25 auto insurers in the US, enrollments grew by 142% from Q1 2020 through Q1 2023. CMT has found that drivers who engage in these UBI programs are 65% safer. And, when the riskiest drivers engage with UBI programs consistently, CMT’s research shows they can reduce their chance of a crash with an injury by 5.5%.

State legislators and road safety groups have also helped decrease distracted driving. The four states that introduced hands-free laws, where it’s illegal for people to handle their phones while driving, reduced distracted driving by an average of 7.1% and prevented an estimated 8,200 crashes and 37 fatalities in 2023. Compared to “no-texting” states, where it’s illegal to text and drive but not to engage with your phone behind the wheel, the 29 hands-free states saw distracted driving levels 9% lower in 2023.

There was more media coverage of distracted driving in 2023 as well. In 2023, the media produced over 67,000 articles about smartphone distracted driving, resulting in 3.6 billion impressions, a 31% increase over 2021.** Google Trends data suggests that consumer awareness of the dangers of distracted driving rose by 54% in 2023. CMT research has shown that increased media coverage raises driver awareness and reduces distracted driving.

“While it’s great to see that distracted driving declined in 2023 after years of trending upward, every second that drivers use their phone behind the wheel puts all road users at risk,” said Matt Fiorentino, VP of Marketing for Cambridge Mobile Telematics. “From consent-based UBI programs, to hands-free laws, this decline shows that we have the tools to fight distracted driving. With the data from this report and CMT’s insights into reducing road risk, we have an opportunity to accelerate this progress even further.”

The extensive report also provides analyses of:

  • The latest risk behavior trends on American roads
  • The states with the most distracted driving
  • The days with the highest levels of distracted driving
  • The most dangerous hours for distracted driving
  • Why US drivers are more distracted
  • The apps Americans admit to using while driving 
  • The strategies and results that reduce distracted driving

Beyond telematics data, the report includes analyses from five CMT surveys covering 6,800 total respondents. The surveys include the apps that Americans admit to using most while driving, driver sentiment for road safety in the US and the UK, and the use of Do Not Disturb While Driving in the US.

CMT’s report, The State of US Road Risk in 2024, is available now and can be downloaded at https://www.cmt.ai/report-the-state-of-us-road-risk-in-2024/.

About Cambridge Mobile Telematics

Cambridge Mobile Telematics (CMT) is the world’s largest telematics service provider. Its mission is to make the world’s roads and drivers safer. The company’s AI-driven platform, DriveWell® Fusion, gathers sensor data from millions of IoT devices — including smartphones, proprietary Tags, connected vehicles, dashcams, and third-party devices — and fuses them with contextual data to create a unified view of vehicle and driver behavior. Auto insurers, automakers, commercial mobility companies, and the public sector use insights from CMT’s platform to power risk assessment, safety, claims, and driver improvement programs. Headquartered in Cambridge, MA, with offices in Budapest, Chennai, Seattle, Tokyo, and Zagreb, CMT measures and protects tens of millions of drivers across the world every day. Learn more at www.cmt.ai/

*Estimates based on the change in crash rate from distracted driving and data from NHTSA’s report The Economic and Societal Impact of Motor Vehicle Crashes, 2019: $340 billion in crash damages from 14.2 million crashes in 2019, averaging $23,954 per crash

**According to a Meltwater analysis for “smartphone distracted driving” for 2021, 2022, and 2023