Which states are the worst for texting while driving?

The worst state for texting and driving is Arkansas. Nationwide, a whopping 37 percent admitted to texting while behind the wheel.

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Zaneta Wood, Ed.S. has over 15 years of experience in research and technical writing bringing a keen understanding of data analysis and information synthesis to reach a wide variety of audiences. She studied adult education and instructional technology at Appalachian State University as well as technical and professional communication at East Carolina University. Zaneta has prepared technical p...

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Joel Ohman is the CEO of a private equity backed digital media company. He is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, author, angel investor, and serial entrepreneur who loves creating new things, whether books or businesses. He has also previously served as the founder and resident CFP® of a national insurance agency, Real Time Health Quotes. He has an MBA from the University of South Florida. Jo...

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Reviewed by Joel Ohman
Founder & CFP®

UPDATED: Dec 4, 2020

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Here's what you need to know...

  • Distracted driving is an increasing problem all over the country
  • Drunk driving fatalities are decreasing while texting fatalities are increasing
  • Some states are worse about texting while driving than others are

While many people debate which states have the worst drivers, the new and growing concern is over which states have the most distracted drivers.

We’d like to know…and so would the auto insurance companies! Enter your ZIP code here to make sure you find the best deals on car insurance rates.

What is distracted driving?

Ever eaten in the car? Fiddled with a radio knob? Looked away from the road to check something on your seat? Congratulations — You’ve been a risk to yourself and those around you.

Distracted driving is exactly what it sounds like, people who are not paying attention behind the wheel. And nothing is more distracting than texting, as it requires you to actually look at your phone’s screen instead of at the road.

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The Dangers of Texting While Driving

Car and Driver tested reaction times by having a red light, designed to simulate a brake light, trigger as their professional driver was texting.

They found texting while behind the wheel is the equivalent of chugging a few beers before getting behind the wheel.

In fact, as drunk driving fatalities are dropping, texting fatalities are going up.

Using a cell phone in your car at all is fairly controversial. The National Transportation Safety Board, the people who administer crash tests, recently called for a ban on all cell phone use in cars, right down to banning using a hands-free device to take calls.

What are states doing about it?

People are aware of the danger and are acting accordingly. Thirty-five states have passed texting while driving laws. The following 15 states do not have such bans:

  • Alaska
  • Alabama
  • Florida
  • Hawaii
  • Idaho
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • New Mexico
  • Ohio
  • South Dakota
  • South Carolina
  • West Virginia

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Which states are the worst?

We took information from the National Highway Safety Transportation Administration and the Governor’s Highway Safety Association: two agencies seriously concerned about texting and driving as a public safety issue.

We compared our distracted driving data against the percentage of people who admitted to texting while behind the wheel, a whopping 37 percent. And that gave us our hall of shame, which would be from least to greatest:

  • #10 – Kansas
  • #9 – Missouri
  • #8 – New Jersey
  • #7 – Idaho
  • #6 – North Dakota
  • #5 – New Mexico
  • #4 – Louisiana
  • #3 – Kentucky
  • #2 – Florida
  • #1 – Arkansas

If you’re familiar with our annual ranking of the 10 states with the worst drivers, some of these states, you’ll see, crossover. In our latest 10 states with the worst drivers ranking, Arkansas is ranked 10th and New Mexico is ranked 2nd.

While texting may affect some states individually, others face a number of challenges that contribute to their traffic death totals that aren’t just about texting and more about their general driving culture, bad infrastructure, or other traffic issues.

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So, what can we do about texting while driving?

First, keep your cell phone away from your dashboard and in your pocket, where it belongs. Ideally, turn it off completely while driving.

If that’s not possible, when you get the text, find a place to pull over before answering.

Secondly, call your friends out if you see them doing it. Part of the reason drunk driving has declined is that we, as a society, are telling people it’s not OK.

And, no matter what your driving habits are, look for car insurance using our free quote tool. For the best rates on car insurance, enter your ZIP code below for a FREE quote.

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