Imagine a teenager driving down the road. They leisurely look down at their phone, with their eyes returning to the road only to find out that their vehicle has drifted into oncoming traffic. They try to regain control, but it’s too late; they spin and are t-boned by another car. By listening to this story, it is clear to you and I that the cause of this accident was a cell phone, but many officials omit this detail in their collision reports, instead citing factors like lack of driving experience.
According to a recent investigation into state and federal data conducted by the National Safety Council, crash deaths that result from phone usage is seriously underreported. In a study financed in part by the Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company, the advocacy group reviewed 180 fatal car accidents spanning the years of 2009, 2010, and 2011, in which there was strong evidence of cellphone usage by the driver. The results found that only 8% of the 2009 crashes were coded as involving cell phones, and that while cell phone awareness by authorities increased in 2010 and 2011, neither had more than half of their accidents coded for cell phone distraction. Even in cases where drivers openly admitted to using a phone during an accident in which someone was killed, about half of the cases cited other causes instead.
This underreporting sends a message of false security to drivers all across America, and may lead them to believe that distracted driving isn’t as dangerous as they’ve been told. “We believe the number of crashes involving cellphone use is much greater than what is being reported,” said the safety council’s president and CEO, “It may not be possible to ever get complete reporting of cellphone involvement as long as reliance on admission is a factor.” Instead, the council has asked the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to begin studies that might determine whether it is feasible to estimate cellphone-distracted accident numbers in a way that is similar to the estimates that are already made for other data lacking vehicle accidents, such as instances involving drunk driving. (USA Today)
Of the more than 32,000 traffic deaths that occurred in the United States in 2011, only 385 were listed as involving cellphones. Our lawyers are committed to zealously advocating for people who have been seriously injured in accidents, and we know that despite the statistics, distraction is a serious problem on our roadways. If you are a parent, we urge you to sit down and talk to your children about using their cellphones responsibly when driving, and model this behavior your self. If you and your children understand the dangers that come with distracted driving, you will be better able to keep yourselves and others safe.