INJURY LAW BLOG

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Underreporting distracted driving fatalities skews the issue

Posted by Smiley & Smiley on May 13, 2013 5:57:05 PM

Upon impact, motor vehicles toss both occupants and objects contained within them around violently. The greater the speed vehicles were going prior to impact, the more violently the contents of those vehicles are tossed around. When motor vehicle accidents occur due to distracted driving behavior, this cause does not always get properly reported. When a low-speed crash happens and a phone remains in the hand of the driver, the cause may be obvious to first responders. When the phone is thrown from the car and the driver never wakes up, the true cause of the accident may remain unknown.

Both local law enforcement and federal regulators compile statistics related to the causes of motor vehicle accidents. This data is then used to inform legislative policy and individual causes help to determine liability in personal injury cases. If accident causes are not properly reported, the evidence informing both legal cases and overarching policy become skewed. It is becoming increasingly clear to safety experts that the scope of distracted driving accidents is not accurately reflected in statistical data widely released to the American public.

According to a study recently completed by the National Safety Council, underreporting of distracted driving accidents is a significant problem. It has skewed the ability of the public and legislators to understand the scope of the issue and to react in an informed manner.

How widespread is underreporting on this issue? Analysis of crashes between 2009 and 2011 indicate that only between eight and 50 percent of distracted driving crashes were reported as such in the federal accident database annually. Distracted driving is likely more than twice as prevalent as the American public has been led to believe. It is time for law enforcement and federal regulators to ensure that reporting is far more accurate than it is now, because lives truly depend on this information as reported.

Source: CBS News, "Study: Distracted driving deaths underreported," Associated Press, May 7, 2013

Topics: car accidents, liability

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