Cellphone-Caused Crashes Vastly Underreported

Auto accident attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm report of a new study by the National Safety Council which found that vehicle crashes involving cellphone use are wildly underreported in national statistics. This is just another report confirming the very real – and fatal – effects of using handheld devices while driving.

Researchers for the National Safety Council, a non-profit organization based in Illinois, reviewed 180 fatal crashes between 2009 and 2011 and independently confirmed they were caused by cellphone-related distractions. This was confirmed either by driver admission, passenger reporting, police finding unfinished messages, or by people on the other end of the call or text reporting the driver’s cellphone use.

The organization then compared these findings with data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), which is the official federal database on fatal vehicle crashes and their causes. As it turns out, the federal agency classified only 52% of those same 180 crashes as cellphone-related.

Additionally, in fatal crashes where the driver willingly admitted to using a cellphone, the NHTSA only classified half of those crashes as involving a cellphone. Ultimately, the National Safety Council estimated that a quarter of all motor vehicle crashes involve or are caused by cellphone use – although the NHTSA estimates that number at around 2%. The Council also noted that there is significant disparity between how officers in different jurisdictions conduct their investigations and consequent reports.

It is each state’s responsibility to compile, audit, and validate the data from the hundreds of police crash reports, which is then compiled by FARS into the national database. Not surprisingly, the National Safety Council found considerable difference in how each state coded cellphone-related accidents.

For example, in 2010, Tennessee reported over 70 fatal crashes involving cellphones, and 93 in 2011. In New York, a significantly larger state in population, only 10 such crashes were reported, and only one was reported in all off 2011. New Mexico did not report any fatal crashes involving or caused by cellphones in 2011, which is certainly not the case.

The Council’s ultimate goal is to spread awareness of the dangers of distracted driving, although it affirms that there is much more to be done to capture the actual impact it has on American driving safety. It is currently working with states and local law enforcement agencies to include more precise categories to police crash reports. The deputy executive director of the Governors Highway Safety Associated noted that, though cellphone-related crashes are underreported, these insufficiencies vary from state to state.

Another recently published study by the Texas Transportation Institute at Texas A&M University compared traditional type-texting to voice-dictated texting to determine whether one was safer than the other. American drivers overwhelmingly believe that voice-commanded texting is considerable safer than type-texting.

Researchers found that all 43 participants took twice as long to react to roadway conditions as they did when not texting regardless of the form their texts took. Actually, voice-to-text took longer than traditional texting because drivers had to go back through their messages to correct mistakes the device had made. Both methods turned out to be equally dangerous because both took driver’s eyes and minds off the road. Distractions are distractions, not matter how cutting edge the technology may be.

Auto accident lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm highlight these studies to increase driver awareness of the very real safety risks cellphones pose on the road. It should never take a catastrophic accident to change dangerous driving habits, no matter how common-place they may seem. If you or a loved one was seriously injured in a car accident caused by the negligence of another, you may be entitled to significant compensation for any medical bills and lost wages.


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