Technology and Teen Driving

Smartphones are everywhere. 68% of Americans owned one in 2015, compared to just 35% in 2011. The rise of smartphone popularity has come with unexpected costs, as increased smartphone ownership increases the likelihood of cell phone usage in cars. The consequences of distracted driving can be deadly, especially for teens who are still learning to drive. The good news is, together, we can do something about it.

Let’s Get Started

How Much Do You Know About Distracted Driving?

You have a cell phone. You have access to a car. Sometimes you might be tempted to use them both at the same time. Take this quiz to find out how much you know about the risks associated with distracted driving.

Quiz Results

Statistics

Distracted Driving by the Numbers

The estimated number of Americans using their phones while driving at any given moment.

The approximate number of people killed each day in car crashes involving a distracted driver.

The estimated percentage of car crashes in 2012 that involved drivers texting or calling. (That’s over a million accidents.)

In recent years, most states in the U.S. have passed anti-distracted driving laws meant to discourage texting and/or talking on the phone while driving. But many people still believe they can multitask at the wheel. In a NHTSA survey, 54% of respondents said talking on a cell phone would not affect their driving; 25% said the same about texting.

Science tells us multitasking while driving is risky at best, even if we’re confident we can do it. That’s because driving is an incredibly complex task, and our brains aren’t very good at task-switching. Reading or sending a text message requires so much brain power, it effectively doubles a driver’s reaction time.

Think talking the phone is safer than texting? Not so fast. In 2010, the National Safety Council estimated that while 160,000 crashes involved texting, 1.1 million crashes were caused by drivers talking on a cell phone. Hands-free phone usage isn’t necessarily safe, either, even though it’s allowed under many laws that prohibit texting.

The safest bet? Keep your phone usage to a minimum — and check out our tips and tools for safer driving.

Safety Tips & Tools

Tips

  • Talk it out (later) | Avoid placing or answering phone calls (even hands-free!), or having emotional, stressful, or complicated conversations while driving. Holding a conversation can be a major distraction even if you keep your eyes on the road. It’s best to let incoming calls go to voicemail, and call back when you arrive.
  • Don’t text and drive | Don’t read or write texts while driving, even via voice command. If you have to read or send a message, pull into a rest area or other safe place and put the car in park.
  • Set your GPS first | When using your phone for directions, make sure your GPS is set (and plugged in to charge, if possible) before you leave. Listen for turn-by-turn directions, and avoid staring at the screen or manipulating the GPS while the car is in motion. If a passenger is riding with you, put him or her in charge of navigating.
  • Choose a spot | Keep your phone in the same place, within reach, every time you drive. That way, you’ll be able to find it quickly in the event of an emergency. Make sure it’s somewhere secure, so it won’t go flying when you brake or fall under your pedals.
  • Pause and reflect | Before you start your car, take a moment to think of anything you’d like to do before you leave. Is there a call or note-to-self you want to make? A message you need to send? Take care of those tasks while your car is in park, then put your phone away for the duration of the trip.
  • Don’t try to DJ | Fiddling with your phone to find a specific song takes your eyes off the road and your hands off the wheel. Ask a passenger to DJ for you, or build a car playlist in advance, and start it before you leave your driveway.

 

Tools

  • SMARTwheel | This is no ordinary steering wheel cover; it’s an anti-distracted driving tool seeking to prevent accidents by changing driver behavior. SMARTwheel uses high-tech sensors to track trip data and assign a Safety Score to recent trips, viewable within the companion smartphone app. Helpful lights and sounds alert the driver when his or her hands leave the steering wheel for too long, fighting distraction in real time.
  • Groove | Groove by Katasi serves a double purpose. When the car is moving, Groove holds onto incoming text messages and notifications — then delivers them to you when you reach your destination. It also prevents the user from texting, Facebooking, and surfing the web while driving. (Don’t worry, GPS and music streaming aren’t affected.)
  • Hum | Roadside and emergency assistance. Vehicle location. Maintenance reminders and diagnostics. Hum does all this and more. This inconspicuous little gadget allows parents to set speed and boundary alerts for new drivers, plus track driving history and more via the companion smartphone app. Simply put, the Hum offers affordable peace of mind for both parents and teens.

 

Laws, Penalties and Initiatives

Alabama
Law

Ban on texting for all drivers (primary law)

Penalties

$25 fine for a first-time offense, $50 for a second offense and $75 for a third offense. A two-point violation on the offender's driving record for each offense.

Local initatives and organizations

Drive Safe Alabama provides a full suite of online resources, complete with driving tips and traffic law guides, to keep the state's roadways safe.

Alaska
Law

Ban on texting for all drivers (primary law)

Penalties

Up to $10,000 fine and one year in prison

Local initatives and organizations

The Alaska Injury Prevention Center heads up several programs to prevent distracted driving, including ThinkFast, High School Buckle Up, and Raise Your Voice.

Arizona
Law
Ban on texting only for bus drivers
Penalties
Penalty Link
Local initatives and organizations
The Drive Smart Arizona coalition unites the state's professionals, educators, businesses, elected officials, governmental agencies and volunteers toward a common goal: to reduce distracted driving in the state.
Arkansas
Law

Ban on texting for all drivers (primary law)

Penalties

Up to $100 fine

Local initatives and organizations

Arkansas' Toward Zero Deaths program leverages the collective power of education, enforcement, engineering and emergency services in an effort to eliminate roadway fatalities.

California
Law
Ban on texting for all drivers (primary law)
Penalties
$161 fine
Local initatives and organizations
Motivated by the devastating impact of fatal crashes involving teens, highway patrol officers and first responders helped jumpstart Impact Teen Drivers, a charitable organization that raises awareness about responsible driving.
Colorado
Law
Ban on texting for all drivers (primary law)
Penalties
$100 fine
Local initatives and organizations
Colorado's Drop the Distraction campaign works to reduce fatal crashes caused by distracted driving by supporting law enforcement and raising awareness in local communities.
Connecticut
Law
Ban on texting for all drivers (primary law)
Penalties
$150 fine for a first-time offense, $300 fine for a second offense and $500 for a third offense.
Local initatives and organizations
The I-Promise Pledge is an educational campaign created by Trantolo & Trantolo Law firm, WFSB-3 and the Connecticut Police Chiefs Association. The pledge encourages drivers to avoid cell phone use while driving.
DC
Law
Ban on texting for all drivers (primary law)
Penalties
$100 fine
Local initatives and organizations
In late 2016, the D.C. Council voted on a bill to increase the minimum fine for texting and driving to $200 and to add possible license suspension for repeat offenders.
Delaware
Law
Ban on texting for all drivers (primary law)
Penalties
$106 fine for a first-time offense. Up to $350 for subsequent offenses.
Local initatives and organizations
The SmartDrive Foundation offers intensive, interactive defensive driving programs to reduce motor vehicle crashes for students in Delaware high schools.
Florida
Law
Ban on texting for all drivers (secondary law)
Penalties
$30 fine, plus court costs. $60 fine, plus court costs for a second offense committed within 5 years.
Local initatives and organizations
Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles department launched their #FocusOnDrivingFL campaign in 2016.
Georgia
Law
Ban on texting for all drivers (primary law)
Penalties
$150 fine and one point against the offender's driving record.
Local initatives and organizations
In 2015, Georgia traffic fatalities increased for the first time in a decade. To address this startling change, the Georgia Department of Transportation founded Drive Alert Arrive Alive, a statewide safety campaign that encourages adults to model safe driving for teens and raises awareness about the deadly risks associated with distracted driving.
Hawaii
Law
Ban on texting for all drivers (primary law)
Penalties
Fines start at $257, but may be higher in school/construction zones
Local initatives and organizations
Hawaii is home to a chapter of SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions), an organization devoted to raising awareness about many teen safety issues, including distracted driving.
Idaho
Law
Ban on texting for all drivers (primary law)
Penalties
Fines start at $81
Local initatives and organizations
The Idaho chapter of Toward Zero Deaths has sponsored a campaign called Phone Down, Eyes Up in partnership with the Keep Kids Alive, Drive 25 initiative.
Illinois
Law
Ban on texting for all drivers (primary law)
Penalties
$75 fine for a first-time offense. Up to $150 fine for subsequent offenses.
Local initatives and organizations
Illionis SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) is a peer leadership organization that empowers young people to make postive choices. Since safe driving is one key area of advocacy, SADD offers local high schools free access to distracted driving simulators.
Indiana
Law
Ban on texting for all drivers (secondary law)
Penalties
Up to $500 fine.
Local initatives and organizations
The Indiana Department of Labor's annual Drive Now TXT L8R contest invites Indiana students to showcase their creative talents for a good cause -- and a chance at scholarship money. The objective? Post an original photo or video relays the importance of not texting while driving.
Iowa
Law
Ban on texting for all drivers (secondary law)
Penalties
$30 fine
Local initatives and organizations
Iowa's Zero Fatalities program emphasizes the positive impact that a single safe driver can have on traffic stats. With an online learning center full of tips and a comprehensive highway safety plan, Zero Fatalities is making roads safer across the Hawkeye State.
Kansas
Law
Ban on texting for all drivers (primary law)
Penalties
Fines start at $60, plus court costs
Local initatives and organizations
Ken Selzer, the Kansas State Insurance Commissioner, launched the Don't Text, #JustDrive campaign in 2016.
Kentucky
Law
Ban on texting for all drivers (primary law)
Penalties
Fines range from $20-100, plus court costs
Local initatives and organizations
In 2012, Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear signed a proclamation: October 10 is "Don't Text and Drive Day" in the state of Kentucky.
Louisiana
Law
Ban on texting for all drivers (primary law)
Penalties
$100 fine for a first-time offense. Up to $500 fine for subsequent offenses.
Local initatives and organizations
Louisiana organization Destination Zero Deaths is dedicated to educating the public about dangerous driving behaviors to promote safety on the road.
Maine
Law
Ban on texting for all drivers (primary law)
Penalties
$250 fine for a first-time offense. Up to $500 fine for a subsequent offense comitted within three years.
Local initatives and organizations
In 2015, Maine Senator Roger Katz sponsored a bill to prohibit use of a cell phone while driving (unless use is hands-free.) Lawmakers were divided on the issue for several months. The bill ultimately failed to pass.
Maryland
Law
Ban on texting for all drivers (primary law)
Penalties
$40 fine for a first-time offense. $100 fine for subsequent offenses.
Local initatives and organizations
Maryland's Motor Vehicle Administration has a created a distracted driving safety program to educate residents about the dangers of texting and driving.
Massachusetts
Law
Ban on texting for all drivers (primary law)
Penalties
$100 fine for a first-time offense, $250 fine for a second offense and $500 for a third offense.
Local initatives and organizations
In conjunction with the nationwide U Drive, U Text, U Pay campaign, Massachusetts police stepped up enforcement of anti-texting laws in 2016.
Michigan
Law
Ban on texting for all drivers (primary law)
Penalties
$100 fine for a first-time offense. $200 fine for subsequent offenses.
Local initatives and organizations
To emphasize the importance of keeping eyes on the road and hands on the wheel, the Michigan State Police created a social media campaign called "Get Your Head Out of Your App." Michigan drivers are encouraged to follow along on Facebook and Twitter using the hashtags #JustDrive and #DistractedDriving.
Minnesota
Law
Ban on texting for all drivers (primary law)
Penalties
$50 fine for a first-time offense. $225 fine for subsequent offenses.
Local initatives and organizations
Minnesotans for Safe Driving is a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting victims of distracted driving wrecks, improving traffic laws and raising awareness about the risks of careless driving.
Mississippi
Law
Ban on texting for all drivers (primary law)
Penalties
$100 fine.
Local initatives and organizations
The Mississippi Highway Patrol's Pay Attention or Pay a Fine campaign reminds drivers across the Magnolia State to keep their focus on th road -- not on their phones.
Missouri
Law
Limited ban on texting (primary law)
Penalties
2 points on license for offenders under the age of 21.
Penalty Link
Local initatives and organizations
The Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety runs several driving safety campaigns, including one for distracted driving awareness.
Montana
Law
No statewide ban on texting; however, many Montana cities and counties have enacted anti-texting bans
Penalties
---
Penalty Link
---
Local initatives and organizations
The Montana Office of Public Instruction offers a variety of online Drivers Ed resources for teens, parents, and teachers.
Nebraska
Law
Ban on texting for all drivers (secondary law)
Penalties
Fines range from $200 - $500, and may include 3 points on driver's license.
Local initatives and organizations
The National Safety Council of Nebraska provides educational resources related to distracted driving in the interest of raising awareness about the dangers of multitasking at the wheel.
Nevada
Law
Ban on texting for all drivers (primary law)
Penalties
Fines up to $250 and up to six-month suspension of license
Local initatives and organizations
Nevada's Zero Fatalities initiative seeks to educate drivers about the dangers of distracted driving with a range of educational resources.
New Hampshire
Law
Ban on handheld use for all drivers (primary law)
Penalties
$100 fine
Local initatives and organizations
New Hampshire's Driving Toward Zero program strives to prevent fatal crashes in New Hampshire, starting with a 50% decrease by the year 2030.
New Jersey
Law
Ban on texting for all drivers (primary law)
Penalties
Fines range from $200 - $800. Repeated offences may incur a 3 point penalty on driver's license and/or a 90-day license suspension.
Local initatives and organizations
New Jersey participates in the nationwide U Drive, U Text, U Pay initiative, which includes strict enforcement policies like police patrols and spotters on highway overpasses.
New Mexico
Law
Ban on texting for all drivers (primary law)
Penalties
Fines range from $25 - 50.
Local initatives and organizations
The New Mexico Department of Transportation's ENDWI campaign leverages billboards, educational resources, and more to raise awareness about the consequences of distracted driving and other unsafe driving behaviors.
New York
Law
Ban on texting for all drivers (primary law)
Penalties
Fines range from $50 - 450, plus 5 diver violation points on license. For novice drivers, texting while driving incurs a 120-day suspension of license or learner's permit.
Local initatives and organizations
In an effort to reduce tempation to text and drive, the Glove It initative (founded by a family in New York) encourages drivers to store their cell phones in their car's glove compartment.
North Carolina
Law
Ban on texting for all drivers (primary law)
Penalties
$100 fine, plus additional court costs.
Local initatives and organizations
The NC Vision Zero initiative seeks to unite educators, law enforcement officers, first responders, and others to prevent dangerous behaviors like distracted driving.
North Dakota
Law
Ban on texting for all drivers (primary law)
Penalties
$100 fine
Local initatives and organizations
Code for the Road offers various resources intended to raise awareness about distracted driving. Their Speak Up! program provides educational materials to schools free of charge.
Ohio
Law
Ban on texting for all drivers (secondary law)
Penalties
Fines range from $150 - 300; possible 60-day license suspension.
Local initatives and organizations
As part of the Toward Zero Deaths initiative, the Ohio Department of Transportation demonstrates seven distracted driving simulators at high schools and community events.
Oklahoma
Law
Ban on texting for all drivers (primary law)
Penalties
$100 fine
Local initatives and organizations
The Oklahoma Department of Transportation participates in the national U Drive, U Text, U Pay campaign, which includes both advertising and strict enforcement policies. The Oklahoma DOT also encourages drivers to sign the National Highway Traffic Administration's distracted driving pledge.
Oregon
Law
Ban on texting for all drivers (primary law)
Penalties
$142 fine
Local initatives and organizations
The city of Portland, OR launched the StreetSmart - Go Safe program in 2011, with both educational outreach components and stricter distracted driving law enforcement.
Pennsylvania
Law
Ban on texting for all drivers (primary law)
Penalties
$50 fine, plus court costs
Local initatives and organizations
The Pennsylvania Teen Safe Driving Coalition heads up several initiatives, including the Ticket Your Parents campaign and the HEARTS Network.
Rhode Island
Law
Ban on texting for all drivers (primary law)
Penalties
$100 - 250 fine, with possible license suspension of up to 6 months
Local initatives and organizations
The Rhode Island Department of Transportation raises awareness about the consequences of distracted driving with the It Can Wait anti-texting and driving campaign.
South Carolina
Law
Ban on texting for all drivers (primary law)
Penalties
Fine up to $50
Local initatives and organizations
South Carolina's Target Zero initiative seeks to reduce the number of distracted driving injuries and deaths by raising awareness about the dangers of distracted driving, researching distracted driving laws, and improving roadway design.
South Dakota
Law
Ban on texting for all drivers (secondary law)
Penalties
$100 fine
Local initatives and organizations
The city of Sioux Falls, SD launched the Save a Life, Save it For Later campaign in 2016. The campaign includes street signs, billboards, PSAs, and increased police presence.
Tennessee
Law
Ban on texting for all drivers (primary law)
Penalties
Fine up to $50, plus court costs
Local initatives and organizations
Reduce TN Crashes launched an initiative in conjunction with AT&T's It Can Wait campaign, with the goal of educating teens about distracted driving hazards. Students at participating high schools could earn points -- and awards -- for their school by helping to raise awareness about the campaign on social media.
Texas
Law
No statewide ban, but many Texas cities enforce some sort of cell phone ordinance
Penalties
City-assessed fines range from $200 - 500
Local initatives and organizations
Texas organization Teens in the Driver Seat is on a mission to prevent unsafe driving behaviors of all forms: distracted driving, speeding, not using a seat belt, and more.
Utah
Law
Ban on texting for all drivers (primary law)
Penalties
Fines up to $100
Local initatives and organizations
Utah's chapter of the Zero Fatalities initiative aims to educate drivers about distracted driving, as well as influence road design and texting and driving law enforcement.
Vermont
Law
Ban on texting for all drivers (primary law)
Penalties
Fines range from $100 - 250, plus surcharges; up to 5 points on driver's license; possible 30 day recall of license
Local initatives and organizations
The Youth Safety Council of Vermont's Turn Off Texting allows students to experience the dangers of distracted driving firsthand. On a safe, closed course, students attempt to navigate a golf cart through a series of traffic cones while texting, often with eye-opening results.
Virginia
Law
Ban on texting for all drivers (primary law)
Penalties
Fines range from $125 - 250
Local initatives and organizations
Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins signed on as the face of Virginia's Phones Down, Touchdown ad campaign in 2016.
Washington
Law
Ban on texting for all drivers (primary law)
Penalties
$124 fine
Local initatives and organizations
King County, Washington's Text, Talk, Ticket campaign is designed to raise public awareness of Washington State's laws regarding texting and talking on a phone while driving.
West Virginia
Law
Ban on texting for all drivers (primary law)
Penalties
Fines range from $100 - 300
Local initatives and organizations
The West Virginia Highway Safety Plan includes a $1,000,000 investment in the Governor's Highway Safety Program, which provides educational resources, enforcement programs, and more to combat distracted driving.
Wisconsin
Law
Ban on texting for all drivers (primary law)
Penalties
Fines range from $20 - 400; four points on license
Local initatives and organizations
The Zero in Wisconsin initiative includes the Anywhere But There campaign, with interviews, TV ads, and more intended to encourage drivers not to text and drive.
Wyoming
Law
Ban on texting for all drivers (primary law)
Penalties
Fine up to $75
Local initatives and organizations
Drive Safe Wyoming offers several online resources, includes tips for avoiding distracted driving and a no-texting-and-driving pact.

Next Steps for Teens and Parents

Teens

Review and sign the teen driving contract stating your commitment to driving safely.

 

Download

Parents

Use our distracted driving discussion guide to start the conversation with your teen.

 

Download