National reported patterns of driver cell phone use in the United States

Braitman, Keli A. / McCartt, Anne T.
Traffic Injury Prevention (TIP)
November 2010

Objectives: To obtain detailed information on patterns of driver cell phone use, including how often drivers talk and text, the extent to which they use hands-free devices, and knowledge of and reaction to state cell phone laws.
Methods: Telephone surveys were conducted with 1219 drivers in the 48 contiguous U.S. states and the District of Columbia, using random samples of landline and cell phone numbers.
Results: Forty percent of drivers reported talking on phones at least a few times per week. The percentages were highest for males (49%) and drivers ages 25-29 (66%). The percentage of drivers who reported never talking on phones was higher in states with all-driver bans on handheld phone use (44%) than in states without a ban applying to all drivers (30%). The percentage of drivers who talk on phones and always talk hands-free was higher in states with all-driver handheld phone bans (22%) than where such bans are not in effect (13%). Thirteen percent of drivers reported some texting while driving, and this percentage was highest among drivers ages 18-24 (43%). Twelve percent of drivers in states with all-driver texting bans reported texting while driving, compared with 14 percent in states with no texting ban. Among drivers ages 18-24, the percentages were 45 and 48 percent, respectively.
Conclusions: Most drivers reported talking on phones while driving, even though earlier surveys have found that most people think this behavior should be banned. Fewer drivers overall reported texting, but the frequency of texting was higher among young drivers. Laws banning handheld phone use seem to discourage some drivers from talking on any type of phone and motivate some drivers to talk hands-free. Laws banning texting while driving have little effect on the reported frequency of texting while driving in any age group.

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