Study Shows Severe Underreporting of Distracted Driving Crashes

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Many are beginning to recognize the threat posed around the country by distracted driving, but might the danger be greater than we even realize?  That’s what seems to be suggested by the results of a new study released by Nationwide Insurance and the National Safety Council.

The study, “Crashes Involving Cell Phones:  Challenges of Collecting and Reporting Reliable Crash Data,” analyzed 180 crashes between 2009 and 2011.  Each of the crashes that were looked at were fatal and appeared to stem from some type of cellphone usage.  These findings were then compared to a crash database to figure out if the information was accurately reported as being distracted driving-related.

What researchers found was that crashes caused by distraction often don’t get reported as such.  For instance, barely more than half of the 2011 crashes that could have been attributed to distraction were actually classified that way.  This has led the National Safety Council to conclude that there are far more cellphone-related crashes that occur than are reported.

What’s particularly shocking is that even instances where a driver admitted to using their cellphone at the time of the crash were not classified as distraction-based.  Reporting procedures also differ by state.  Researchers bring up the case of New York, where only one distraction-based crash was reported, versus Tennessee, which posted 93 crashes.  The National Safety Council figures than about one in four crashes can be attributed to a cellphone.