Americans Really Like Talking On The Phone While Driving

A new study from the Centers For Disease Control shows that Americans talk on their phones while driving far more than people in other countries:



The only nation that even comes close is Portugal.

H/T: Kevin Drum

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Ben says:

    I wonder if that’s because in most large cities in Europe, a large percentage of people don’t commute to work in their cars every day. From my admittedly anecdotal observations when I was there for a semester in college, they mostly only drive on the weekends or when going out with the whole family somewhere.

    I know that most of my phone calls in the car are either work-related on my way in or out of the office, or my wife calling me on the way home asking me to pick something up or stop somewhere.

  2. Rob in CT says:

    Don’t even get me started!

  3. DC Loser says:

    This is probably more due to the fact that in most of the world, the manual transmission is still king. Auto trannys are pretty rare in Europe. It’s hard to hold a phone to talk or text while trying to steer and change gears with both hands.

  4. Boyd says:

    I agree, it would be imprudent to confuse correlation and causation here. In addition to DCL’s point about manual transmissions, Europeans don’t spend as much time driving while they drive (if you get my drift), much less talking on the phone, brushing their teeth or anything else.

  5. C. Clavin says:

    So you’re saying I shouldn’t text from my motorcycle???

  6. grumpy realist says:

    There’s also a lot of long, straight roads out there, on which talking on the phone is not obviously immediately a danger.

    Driving in Boston, on the other hand….

  7. john personna says:

    Ben got it in 1.

    We spend more time in cars. As Europe about phoning while enjoying excellent public transportation …

  8. Peterh says:

    As a daily commuter from Orange County to LA and back on the 405…..I’m with Rob in CT…..and women, I’m lookin’ at you…..

  9. Rafer Janders says:


    I know that most of my phone calls in the car are either work-related on my way in or out of the office, or my wife calling me on the way home asking me to pick something up or stop somewhere.

    Oh well, that makes it all OK then. When you eventually run someone down, just let them know that it was obviously such a critical matter that you couldn’t possibly have made that call before or after you got in the car. They’ll feel a lot better.

  10. Lynda says:

    In addition to manual transmission, the roads in Europe are usually narrower, less straight and the average speeds faster.

    However speaking from my experience in the UK, the big difference in people’s attitudes was the penalties. Use of a phone – even at traffic lights or stopped in traffic – has been illegal since 2003 and currently there is an automatic $90 fine and 3 points on your license with more if you are deemed unsafe. Even before that if a cop saw you driving with a phone you were liable to get pulled over for a “word” as I was in 1999.

    I believe that you would see similar differences between the UK and US for both seat belt use and drunken driving.

  11. Stonetools says:

    What the automobile industry and the cell phone industry ought to do is take a leaf out of the gun industry’s book and lobby for laws prohibiting the CDC from conducting these pesky studies, since they clearly are in furtherance of restricting our God given right to travel and to speak freely over the electronic devices of our choice.

  12. Davebo says:

    It’s been my experience in Europe that talking while driving was legal provided you had a hands free phone.

  13. Rafer Janders says:


    Except in Italy, where you really need your hands to talk, and it’s physically impossible to talk and keep hands on a steering wheel at the same time….

  14. Lynda says:

    Sorry I should have been more specific, the 2003 UK law applied only to hand-held phones. As you say hands-free phones are still legal in the UK. Although if your use of a hands-free phone is causing you to drive erratically you can still be cited for careless driving. Employers are also liable if they expect a driver to use hand-held phone or if the use of a hands-free phone contributed to an accident.

    You can see the effect of the UK legislation in phone use – both hand-held and hands-free – in the graphs attached.

  15. al-Ameda says:

    Hmm …. It appears that leftists and socialists are more cognizant of safety, while capitalists and rightists like to take unsafe chances?