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Study finds cellphone-related crashes go unreported

According to the National Traffic Safety Administration's accident database, the state of Tennessee reported more cellphone-related fatal crashes than any other state in 2011. It should be noted that when it comes to the NHTSA's data -- which is highly publicized -- 2011 is the last year available.

In 2011, Tennessee reported 93 fatal accidents involving cellphones. In 2010 there were 71 fatal crashes involving cellphones reported.

However, it turns out that not only might this number actually be higher, but that across the board states are underreporting fatality crash data involving cellphones.

According to an analysis by the National Safety Council, the underreporting issue stems from a lack of consistency in accident data collection and reporting, as well as the tendency for drivers to not admit to being on the phone right before or during the crash. Additionally, if an officer does not have reason to believe a person was on their phone, the officer will most likely not further investigate the possibility, especially since this would normally mean getting a subpoena in order to obtain cellphone records to see the dates and times of calls.

What this means for the country as a whole is that the dangers associated with distracted driving from cellphones is downplayed. In turn, not having the true fatality numbers may be making it harder to pass stricter distracted driving laws.

At this point, the NHTSA has recognized the fact that the distracted driving data is weak. However, at least 35 states have reported using some sort of a model accident reporting form that is more up-to-date. These forms include boxes for an officer simply to check if a cellphone was used. This could end up leading to more accurate data and a clearer picture of just how dangerous distracted driving is.


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