The report appears in the 15 March issue of the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR).
Road traffic crashes are a global public health problem, contributing to an estimated 1.3 million deaths annually.
Known risk factors for injuries and deaths related to road traffic crashes include speed, alcohol consumption, non-use of seatbelt and helmets.
Using the cell phone while driving is a growing concern.
From an analysis of data captured in public surveys in Europe and the US in 2001, the new CDC report shows that 69% of drivers in the US said they had talked on their cell phone while driving in the previous 30 days, while in the United Kingdom (UK) this figure was only 21%.
The analysis, which uses data from 2011 EuroPNStyles and HealthStyles surveys, also reveals that 31% of drivers in the US said they had read or sent text messages or emails while driving, compared with only 15% in Spain.
The researchers analyzed two specific self-reported driving behaviors (using cell phones to make calls, and sending text messages or emails, while driving). The surveys sampled drivers aged 18 to 64 years in the US and in seven European countries: Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, and the UK.
CDC Director Tom Frieden says in a statement that using a cell phone while driving can be a "fatal distraction".
"Driving and dialing or texting don't mix," sayd Frieden, who urges drivers to "pull over to a safe place and stop", before using the cell phone.
Of the US drivers surveyed, the researchers found:
- No significant difference between men and women (either for making calls or sending texts/emails while driving).
- Talking on the cell phone while driving was more common among 25-44 year-olds than 55-64 year-olds.
- Reading or sending texts or emails while driving was more common among 18-34 year-olds than 45-64 year-olds.
Linda C. Degutis, director of National Center for Injury Prevention and Control at the CDC, says:
"Everyone, of every age and generation, has the ability to make a decision to drive distraction-free."
"It's especially risky for young, inexperienced drivers - who are already extremely vulnerable to crashes - to be distracted when they are behind the wheel."
"Answering a call or reading a text is never worth a loss of life," she adds.
New laws were introduced in February 2013 in 33 states and the District of Columabia restricting cell phone use while driving among teens and new drivers, two high risk groups.
The CDC urges parents to model safe behavior and even use parent-teen driving agreements to keep their teenage children safe behind the wheel.
The CDC says more research is needed to find ways to reduce distraction-related traffic collisions.
The federal agency strongly urges teen drivers never to talk on the phone or text while driving, never drink and drive, and make sure to wear a seat belt at all times.
This latest report follows one the CDC published in January 2013 that showed 1 in 24 adults in the US admits to recently falling asleep while driving.
Written by Catharine Paddock PhD