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Reason for concern: distracted driving causes car accidents

Deaths caused by drivers on the phone were recently found to be significantly underreported. While the dangers of distracted driving continue to be understated, several car accidents in Newark, New Jersey may be attributed to distracted motorists who are either answering their phones or replying to text messages while driving.

The National Safety Council recently analyzed state and federal data. Their analysis revealed that there was strong evidence that drivers involved in many accidents from 2009 to 2011 had been using a cell phone at the time of the accident.

The study also revealed that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration only entered half of the accidents from 2011 as involving cell phone use. It was an improvement from previous years, which saw only eight percent in 2009 and 35 percent in 2010. However, it is still a far cry from actual numbers, which could have convinced lawmakers to pass new laws to prevent such distractions.

The problem, as regarded by the NSC, is the lack of effort to record the specific circumstances of each accident. Even if a driver admits to using the cell phone, authorities still fail to record some of the instances in the database. The NSC suspects that the number is much higher than what is being reported. Unfortunately, accurate statistics are a definite improbability.

The NSC's data are considered by many, including insurance companies, as the gold standard on which data regarding accidents are based. Yet, the council's analysis found a large variation amongst states' reporting of distracted driving. One official told sources that unless drivers inform officers that they were on the phone, distracted driving is not reported. In most states, a subpoena is necessary for officers to investigate cell phone use.

The NHTSA acknowledged weaknesses in their data but promises that efforts are underway to strengthen collection practices by working with local authorities and lawmakers. Thus far, 35 states have reportedly adopted new forms to report cell phone use during accidents.

Distracted driving is an increasingly severe problem. As accidents caused by negligent drivers increase, victims are encouraged to speak to a trusted legal professional for informed advice about their rights and the possibility of punitive damages and financial compensation for any incurred losses.

Source: southwestiowanews.com, "Study: Distracted driving deaths underreported," May 8, 2013

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