Skip to navigationSkip to content

The US states where you’re most likely to be texting while driving (but we’re almost all doing it more)

AP Photo/LM Otero
Ugh. Don't do this. Just don't.
  • Michael J. Coren
By Michael J. Coren

Climate reporter

Published This article is more than 2 years old.

For a country that loves its cars, Americans seem to love phones even more. The combination most of all.

Zendrive, a driver safety and analytics app, has analyzed data from its 4.5 million users to assess how much distracted driving is happening on US roads. They found the number of people who text, scroll, or otherwise fiddle with their phones while behind the wheel is increasing in every city and every state (except Vermont), along with the amount of time they spend doing so.

Most of this use happens at the start of the trip, but Zendrive estimates more than 60% of drivers check their phones while driving and use the phone for average 1-minute, 52 seconds per hour. Even that undercounts the time. Once you remove people who don’t check their phones at all, the average use time rises to three minutes and 40 seconds per hour (iPhone users were the worst offenders).

That has consequences. The risk of death or injury increase  every second drivers’ eyes are away from the road. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration estimates that 3,477 deaths and 391,000 injuries were the result of distracted driving in 2015 alone (that’s not all from activities like texting, but it names that the most “alarming” cause). Are there any legitimate reasons for using the phone under these conditions? “No, this is dangerous,” Jonathan Matus, wrote founder and CEO of Zendrive by email. “The research and recent increase in traffic deaths proves this.”

Distracted driving rankings

Zendrive created a ranking for US cities states based on the frequency and duration in which drivers used their phone while driving for various purposes such as talking, texting, or navigating. The company collected anonymized data from its smartphone app from 4.5 million drivers 1 who traveled a collective 7.1 billion miles between December 2017 and February 2018. It counted times when the driver was manipulating their phone in their hand as the car was moving (although it did not note how often this was at high speeds versus being stuck in traffic).

Zendrive technology is able to differentiate between drivers and passengers based on where someone is sitting and from what side of the vehicle they disembark.

City rankings

Least distracted citiesphone time while drivingMost distracted citiesphone time while driving
Seattle, WA5.70%Houston, TX7.84%
Portland, OR5.81%Miami, FL7.08%
New York, NY6.06%Detroit, MI7.02%
Pittsburgh, PA6.15%San Jose, CA7.00%
Chicago, IL6.47%Los Angeles, CA6.94%


State rankings

📬 Need to Know: COP26

Your guide to the world's biggest climate summit.

By providing your email, you agree to the Quartz Privacy Policy.