New AAA Report: Cell phones increase crash risk up to eight times

Both hands-free and handheld devices pose significant dangers


DENVER (Jan. 9, 2018) – It goes without saying: Distracted driving is dangerous driving. But just how dangerous? Very, according to a new report from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, and the first epidemiological study published on this topic in more than 10 years.

All told, drivers interacting with cell phones to perform tasks such as texting or surfing the Internet are two to eight times more likely to be involved in a crash than non-device-distracted drivers. Meanwhile, drivers talking on a cell phone behind the wheel are up to four times more likely to be involved in a crash – regardless of whether they’re using a hands-free or handheld device.

“Deep down, I think everybody appreciates just how dangerous it can be to text and drive or talk and drive,” said AAA Colorado spokesman Skyler McKinley. “That so many drivers regularly engage in these deadly behaviors is evidence of a ‘It could never happen to me’ mindset. Today’s report should make one thing clear: Motorists are putting themselves, other road users, pedestrians, and property at significant risk every time they pick up the phone while driving.”

Per preliminary data from the Colorado Department of Transportation, 620 people died on Colorado’s roads in 2017 – surpassing 2016’s record-breaking tally with the highest figure in more than a decade. And, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, distraction was a factor about 10 percent of all fatal motor vehicle crashes and 18 percent of all crashes causing injury.

Drivers disapprove of using cell phones to talk or text while driving, but do it anyway according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety’s most recent Traffic Safety Culture Index . While more than 66 percent of drivers say that they personally consider it unacceptable for a driver to talk on a hand-held cell phone while driving, nearly 33 percent admit to doing it fairly often or regularly. More than 80 percent of drivers say that text messaging or e-mailing are a very serious threat to their personal safety, and 93.7 percent say that they personally consider it unacceptable for a driver to type a text or e-mail while driving.

That’s why the vast majority of drivers – nearly 90 percent -- support having a law against reading, typing, or sending a text message or e-mail while driving, and more than 60 percent strongly support such a law.

And, while drivers are generally more accepting of hands-free cell phone use than handheld use (65.9 percent vs 28.6 percent), today’s report indicates that hands-free and in-vehicle technologies can distract drivers, even if their eyes are on the road and their hands are on the wheel.

“Any level of risk is too high when it comes to safety behind the wheel,” McKinley said. “Configure your GPS, check your notifications, and come up with a clever response to that cheeky Instagram comment before you hit the road. While driving, focus on just one task: Driving."

The full report is available here.

About the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety
Established in 1947 by AAA, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety is a not-for-profit, publicly funded, 501(c)(3) charitable research and educational organization. The AAA Foundation’s mission is to prevent traffic deaths and injuries by conducting research into their causes and by educating the public about strategies to prevent crashes and reduce injuries when they do occur. This research is used to develop educational materials for drivers, pedestrians, bicyclists and other road users. Visit .

About AAA Colorado
More than 660,000 members strong, AAA Colorado is the state's most prominent advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. As North America's largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 58 million members with travel, insurance, financial, and automotive-related services - as well as member-exclusive savings. For more information, visit