Cell phone related crashes vastly under-reported, study says
The number of fatal vehicle crashes that involved texting or cell phone use may be vastly under-reported says a new study from the National Safety Council. Officials fear the skewed numbers may be giving drivers a false sense of security.
Funded in part by Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company, researchers analyzed data from 180 fatal crashes from 2009 to 2011, in which evidence pointed to cell phone use by the driver. In 2011, only 52 percent of those fatal accidents were coded in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTS) database as involving cell phone use.
“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, in a news release. “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.”
Surprisingly, only about one half of the accidents where drivers were honest and actually admitted to using their cell phones were coded in the database.
Complicating matters, it’s sometimes impossible to know how many crashes involved cell phones if there weren’t any witness, researchers said.
Reporting also varied widely from state to state, the analysis found. For example, in 2011, Tennessee reported 93 fatal crashes involving cell phone use. Compare that with highly populated New York state who reported a mere one case. In the same year, Louisiana reported zero cases as compared with its neighbor Texas who reported 40 cases.
Officials involved in the study worry the under-reporting could hamper efforts to raise awareness and educate people about the risks of texting and driving.
Dr. Charles Nozicka, a pediatric emergency physician at Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville, Ill., has treated scores of accident victims resulting from distracted driving. Nozicka says it’s heartbreaking to see the devastating effects, especially on teens.
“As an emergency physician and father of four, distracted driving has been a key component of my professional and parenting practice,” Nozicka says. “Life does not supply our teen drivers with a ‘reset button.’ Studies have shown that distracted driving is as dangerous as driving while intoxicated.”
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