A recent study by the National Safety Council indicates that distracted driving accidents may be far under-reported. The study, entitled “Crashes Involving Cell Phones: Challenges of Collecting and Reporting Reliable Crash Data,” reviewed 180 fatal crashes from 2009 to 2011 in which evidence indicated driver cell phone use. In 2011, only 52% of the cases were coded as involving cell phone use.
Additionally, researchers found that even in crashes where the driver admitted to using a cell phone during a crash, only half of the crashes were coded as such in Federal data.
“We believe the number of crashes involving cell phone use is much greater than what is being reported,” said Janet Froetscher president and CEO of the National Safety Council. “Many factors, from drivers not admitting cell phone use, to a lack of consistency in crash reports being used to collect data at the scene, make it very challenging to determine an accurate number.”
Researchers also found large reporting disparities. For example, Tennessee reported 93 distracted driving fatality crashes in 2011, while New York– which has a much larger population– only reported 1 cell-phone related fatality that year. Additionally, Texas reported 40 and neighboring Louisiana reported none.
“The public should be aware that cell phone-involved fatal crashes are not accurately being reported,” said Bill Windsor, associate vice president of consumer safety at Nationwide. “These statistics influence national prevention priorities, funding decisions, media attention, legislation and policy, even vehicle and roadway engineering. There are wide-ranging, negative ramifications to safety if a fatal crash factor is substantially under-reported, as appears to be the case of cell phone use in crashes.”
In 2012, highway fatalities increased for the first time in seven years. Based on risk and prevalence of cell phone use, as reported by research and NHTSA, the National Safety Council estimates 25% of all crashes involve cell phone use.
To learn more about this issue, visit http://distracteddriving.nsc.org, view the cell phone crash data whitepaper and infographic on this study, or read about safety tips to help avoid driving while distracted.