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Girl holding a phone to her ear while driving

Distracted Driving

Driver distraction is a contributing factor in many crashes. In 2014, distracted driving was reported in crashes that killed 3,179 people (10 percent of all fatalities),1 although many instances may go unreported.

Cell phone use and texting are two of the most common distractions. Many states and local jurisdictions are passing laws that address these behaviors. GHSA's message to all drivers remains: don't use cell phones or other electronic devices while driving, regardless of the current law.

GHSA recommends states ban hand-held cell phone use for all drivers. While texting and hand-held bans are both critical, texting bans by themselves can be difficult to enforce. In states with texting but not hand-held bans, a driver may claim they were dialing a phone number when stopped by a police officer. Enforcement demonstration projects in New York, Connecticut, Delaware and California have shown that hand-held cell phone bans can be enforced effectively and can reduce driver use of a cell phone. See below for the specific policy language.

The It Can Wait® Campaign

GHSA supports the It Can Wait campaign. Spearheaded by AT&T, the goal of the campaign is to save lives by calling on the public, law enforcement, educators, corporations, consumer safety groups and legislators to help find solutions to prevent the dangers of texting and driving. Learn More


In 2013, GHSA published Distracted Driving: Survey of the States, a compilation of state efforts in curbing distracted driving.

In 2011, GHSA released Distracted Driving: What Research Shows and What States Can Do. This report summarizes what distracted driving is, how often drivers are distracted, how distraction impacts driver performance and what countermeasures may be most effective to reduce distracted driving.

1 National Center for Statistics and Analysis. (2015, November). 2014 Crash Data Key Findings (Traffic Safety Facts Crash•Stats. Report No. DOT HS 812 219). Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

GHSA Policy

Excerpted from GHSA's Highway Safety Policies & Priorities PDF icon [115 KB, 27 pgs.]

O. Driver Safety Issues

O.5 Distracted Driving
There are many distractions which may prevent a driver from focusing on the complex task of driving: changing the radio or a CD, talking to passengers, observing an event outside the vehicle, using an electronic device, etc. Navigational and other interactive devices, called telematics, in the vehicle are available in most vehicles and more will be available in the near future. These devices may also distract drivers.

The federal government should fund considerably more research to determine the scope and nature of the distracted driving problem, effective countermeasures and the effect of telematics on driving behavior. Further, the federal government should fund a comprehensive media campaign to educate the public about the dangers of distracted driving and the way to manage driver distractions. GHSA opposes federal legislation that would penalize states for not restricting the use of cell phones or other electronic devices.

Producers and providers of electronic devices should also undertake a major educational campaign to inform the public about the proper use of these devices.

As part of their federal traffic safety grant agreement, states should encourage grantees to adopt policies that ban text messaging while driving. State agencies should also be encouraged to enact bans on texting and driving that are similar to the federal ban.

As part of a state’s graduated licensing law, novice drivers should be prohibited from text messaging or using cell phones and other electronic devices for non-emergency purposes while driving.

GHSA supports state legislation that would ban hand-held cell phone use and text messaging for all drivers, electronic devices used for entertainment purposes with video screens that are within view of the driver and school bus drivers from text messaging or using electronic devices except in an emergency.

GHSA believes that, when on the road, all drivers should not text message, use cell phones or
other electronic devices, faxes, computers or other distracting devices except to report a crash to
emergency responders. If a driver must use such devices to make a call or report an emergency,
the driver should first stop in a parking lot or other protected area.