Number of distracted driving car accidents underreported

Last week we wrote about how the widespread spread use of smartphones and smartphone applications is starting to contribute to the number of distracted driving car accidents in Louisiana and elsewhere. We also wrote about how texting and smartphone app use while driving represents a new and nefarious form of distracted driving that captures the focus of drivers for a longer period of time. Though we know that distracted driving is dangerous current statistics do not tell the entire story.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration the number of car accidents caused by distracted driving is underreported. Traffic safety advocates say it is hard to gather accurate distracted driving information and current statistics only reflect the tip of the iceberg. In 2009 around 5,400 people were killed in car accident related to distracted driving and almost 450,000 people were injured. The number of distracted driving car accidents has also grown by at least six percent over the last five years; however, one expert believes about half of distracted driving car accidents are reported.

Police reports are the starting point for the collection of car accident information, and police report information is fed into big federal databases where analysts use the information to develop policy. The problem with police reports is that there is a wide gradient in the accuracy of distracted driving information collected. Some police departments do not report distracted driving as an accident cause and others report distracted driving information as a part of their narratives which are hard to standardize for database purposes. The end result is inaccurate information.

Source: The Bellingham Herald, “Distracted-driving numbers don’t tell the whole story,” Aaron M. Kessler, Aug. 5, 2011

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