Study Claims Fatal Accidents Caused by Drivers Who Were Distracted by Cell Phones Are Grossly Underreported in New York, Elsewhere
According to a study recently conducted by the National Safety Council advocacy group, the number of fatal accidents across the United States that involve motorists who are talking on a mobile phone are seriously underreported. As part of the study, the group reviewed data taken from 180 fatal automobile accidents that occurred between 2009 and 2011 where evidence reportedly suggested a cellular phone may have been used by a driver at the time of the wreck. The Council allegedly found that distracted driving is a more significant problem than many realize.
Only about half of the crashes analyzed by the organization that occurred in 2011 were marked for cell phone use in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) accident database. Additionally, only 35 percent of the 2010 collisions and eight percent of the 2009 wrecks were coded as having involved a mobile phone. The Council also stated approximately half of those collisions where drivers admitted to using a phone at the time of an accident were actually marked for mobile phone use.
Although the NHTSA database included at least 32,000 traffic fatalities in 2011, cell phone use was recorded as a factor in only 385 cases. In addition, the safety study allegedly found wide variations in the number of cell phone-related accidents included in the NHTSA database across state lines. For example, Tennessee reported that 93 fatal traffic wrecks involved a mobile phone in 2011. In contrast, New York only reported one despite that the state's population is triple that of Tennessee.
The study purportedly demonstrates that distracted driving caused by mobile telephone usage is a serious problem across the nation. National Safety Council President and CEO Janet Foetscher stated she believes inconsistent data and underreporting regarding cell phone use in fatal crashes makes it difficult to quantify the problem. It also allegedly impedes efforts to pass tougher distracted driving laws. According to the Council, cell phone use is normally reported in the NHTSA database only when a witness or someone who was involved in a wreck reports it to police. Unfortunately, many people are apparently reluctant to admit to such behavior.
The NHTSA has reportedly acknowledged weaknesses in its distracted driving data. The organization is purportedly working with states in an effort to increase information accuracy. NHTSA Administrator David Strickland said the Administration is also working with law enforcement agencies who investigate crashes to obtain more accurate data. Although the NHTSA has supposedly advocated in favor of motorist cell phone bans except in case of emergency, no state currently prohibits all mobile telephone use for all drivers.
Deadly traffic crashes in New York often occur without warning. In 2012, 274 people died in a traffic collision in New York City alone. If you lost a loved one in a preventable traffic accident in New York, New Jersey, or Connecticut, you should contact a skilled personal injury attorney as soon as you are able.