‘Tis the Season of Shopping Behind the Wheel: The Latest Danger in Distracted Driving

We’ve all been there. Racing against the clock to find that perfect holiday gift. Text messages and emails from retailers flooding our smartphones with flash sales enticing us with deep discounts on coveted merchandise if we act now. Quantities are limited.

It’s no surprise that 76 percent of Americans shop on mobile devices. But what’s shocking is that almost two out of five Americans ― a whopping 39 percent ― who shop on their phone admit to doing so while behind the wheel, according to a recent survey by Root Insurance. That’s a 4 percent increase over what the insurance company reported last year.

Shopping while driving is a dangerous trend, and it needs to stop.

What Shopping Activities Are Drivers Engaging In?

Root’s “2019 Holiday Distracted Driving Report” is based upon 1,750 surveyed drivers in the U.S. Those who admitted to shopping on their mobile devices while driving have performed the following tasks while behind the wheel:

  • 46 percent browsed for items
  • 45 percent checked an order status
  • 40 percent checked in-store availability of an item
  • 36 percent searched for coupons or deals
  • 33 percent completed a purchase

Who Is Most Likely to Shop While Driving?

According to news reports, the survey found:

  • 49 percent of men admitted to shopping while driving, compared with 30 percent of women
  • 50 percent of drivers ages 18 to 54 have shopped while behind the wheel, compared with 12 percent of drivers 55 or older

How Big a Problem Is Distracted Driving?

Some 3,166 people in the U.S. were killed by distracted driving in 2017, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). NHTSA defines distracted driving as any activity that takes the driver’s attention away from the task of safe driving ― including talking or texting on a phone, eating and drinking, talking to people in your vehicle, and fiddling with the stereo, entertainment or navigation system.

Although NHTSA’s website does not specifically address shopping, NHTSA’s data regarding texting is quite relevant:

Sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for 5 seconds. At 55 mph, that’s like driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed.

In Pennsylvania, distracted drivers caused 14,292 crashes in 2018, according to PennDOT’s “2018 Pennsylvania Crash Facts & Statistics Report.” Sixty-three of those crashes were fatal.

Note Pennsylvania’s texting-while-driving law prohibits drivers from sending, reading, or writing text-based communications while a vehicle is in motion. This activity is a primary offense, meaning that law enforcement can pull over a driver, even if no other traffic offense was committed. Drivers who violate the law face a $50 fine, but no points will be added to their driving record.


If you have been injured in an automobile accident ― by a shopping driver or otherwise ― you may have grounds for a personal injury lawsuit. We recommend that you consult with an attorney immediately to ensure that your legal rights are protected.

And, of course, please don’t do your shopping while behind the wheel.