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Distracted Driving as Cause of Fatal Accidents Seriously Underreported

distracted driving.jpg Kelsey Raffaele is among many drivers across the country that have died as a result of distracted driving, a problem that has been highly underreported. Seventeen-year-old Raffaele was on the phone with a friend when she exclaimed, “I’m going to crash!” She then proceeded to hit a snow bank and spun into oncoming traffic, where her vehicle was T-boned by an SUV. She never regained consciousness. The police originally were unaware that Raffaele had been on her cell phone at the time of the accident and they blamed the accident on mistakes made by a “novice” driver. Her phone was later found in the backseat of the car, but the possibility that distracted driving was a cause of the accident was kept out of police statistics, as well as away from the federal agency that compiles this data.

According to the National Safety Council, an advocacy group, crash deaths where drivers were using their phones are seriously underreported. The Council says this lack of reporting makes the problem seem less serious than it really is, which in turn makes it much more difficult to convince legislatures to pass tougher laws. The Council reviewed 180 crashes that occurred between 2009 and 2011 in which there existed strong evidence that the driver was using a cellphone. Only half of the 2011 crashes were coded in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s accident database as involving some sort of cellphone use. As for the 2009 crashes only eight percent were coded and only thirty-five percent of the 2010 crashes were coded.

Even when drivers admitted to law enforcement that they had used a cellphone at or around the time of the accident, nearly half of those cases did not reflect this in the records. One of the possible explanations for underreporting of distracted driving is that unless a driver or witness admits to using a cellphone, there often is no reason for authorities to investigate that possibility. Also, police are required to seek a subpoena in order to obtain cellphone records. Even if these records are obtained, they must show that a cellphone was used at the exact moment of the accident, which is often difficult to determine. The NHTSA has acknowledged weaknesses in its database and is currently working with states and local authorities to improve reporting of distracted driving accidents. Currently, thirty-five states have adopted model accident reporting forms that contain a box for an officer to check off whether cellphone use was involved.

Study: Distracted driving deaths underreported, www.palmbeachpost.com May 8, 2013


Distracted driving is one of the number one causes of serious injury and fatal car accidents. More and more drivers continue to use their cellphones while operating motor vehicles and put themselves and others around them in danger. The Coral Gables automobile accident attorneys understand how dangerous the roadways have become because of distracted driving. The insurance litigation attorneys have over two decades of experience helping accident victims and their families recover after these devastating, tragic crashes. If you or someone you know has suffered serious injuries in a motor vehicle accident, call (305) 661-2008 today for your free consultation.

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