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Crash Statistics May Not Accurately Capture Cell Phone Problems

One increasingly common cause of car crashes in California and around the nation is phone-related distracted driving. It seems that hardly a month goes by without another study reporting an even higher rate of phone users who admit to texting and driving or using their phones for other distraction-related activities.

Until now, however, the percentage of crashes that are associated with texting and driving has not kept pace. In the nationwide Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) maintained by federal authorities, other distractions like daydreaming accounted for dramatically higher percentages of fatal accidents. 

The reason for this may be that authorities are not accurately reporting cases in which a cell phone played a role.

A new study reviewed a number of fatal crashes known to have involved a cell phone. When the researchers compared these crashes with FARS records, only around 52 percent of 2011 records indicated that phone-related distractions were to blame. Looking back to 2009, that number dropped to just 8 percent.

Based on this research, safety experts are even more concerned about distracted driving and cell phones. One safety organization told USA Today that it thinks around a quarter of all car accidents involve phone distractions. This is apparently a significant shift that could help drive new laws to help victims hold at-fault drivers accountable.

Source: USA Today, "Crashes caused by drivers on cellphones underreported," Larry Copeland, May 8, 2013 

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