Are car crashes involving smartphone use underreported?

Like other kinds of accident statistics, certain government agencies collect information about vehicle crashes and smartphones.

However, some of the data that states pass along to federal agencies seem incomplete, and the suspicion is that they underreport crashes involving smartphone use.

A rise in fatalities

Federal regulators are at somewhat of a loss to determine why traffic fatalities have risen in the past few years after decades of decline. They believe that smartphone use is a major contributor to the statistics, which show that in 2016 alone, more than 100 people died every day either in vehicle crashes as drivers or passengers, or near vehicles, such as pedestrians or cyclists.

More smartphone owners

From 2014 to 2016, the number of American smartphone owners increased from 75 percent to 81 percent. However, people use their cellphones for purposes other than calling as they drive. In fact, motorists use their phones to text, check email or go on social media sites much more often than they do to call someone. Sadly, pedestrians and cyclists represent many of the fatalities. As compared with cars or trucks, they are significantly smaller, and drivers often do not see during the few seconds in which they are distracted by texting or checking Facebook.

Data from states

According to findings in a survey undertaken by the National Safety Council, the figures compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on distraction-related car crash fatalities are too low. However, the issue seems to be with data that individual states may or may not pass along to the NHTSA. Underreporting begins at the local level because many police officers focus on drugs or alcohol as reasons for accidents. They do not necessarily consider whether a driver was using a smartphone at the time of the crash.

A different kind of investigation

When a legal team investigates a car crash on behalf of an injured victim, they will look at the possibility of cellphone use by interviewing witnesses, examining police records and analyzing the phone records of the driver who caused the accident. Crashes involving smartphone use should not go unreported. Authorities should investigate them properly and hold those at fault responsible for the victim’s injuries or death.