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Distracted Driving: Statistics Are Only Part of The Story

As I write about distracted driving accidents, I find it hard to get a good statistics for the number of crashes and fatalities attributed to distracted driving. Estimates of the percentage of fatal crashes involving distracted drivers range from 10% to 80%. How serious of a problem is distracted driving? Even the experts can’t agree.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) tracks statistics for accidents across the United States. In 2009, the NHTSA reports that 5,400 people were killed in crashes involving distracted driving; 995 of these accidents involved a handheld phone. In addition, that year, 448,000 people were injured in distracted driving crashes. But, the NHTSA admits these numbers are an underestimate. Only accidents in which the distraction was recorded by police officers were counted. Currently, only 34 states ask police departments to identify distraction on their reports; the level of detail varies from state to state, as does the recording process. Even if recorded, the incidence of distracted driving may not be entered in a state’s accident database.

David Teater, a parent of an accident victim and an employee of the National Safety Council, compared reports from over 200 distracted driving accidents involving cell phone uses. He found that only half of these accidents were recorded in the NHTSA database.

To solve the problem of under-reporting, safety officials are trying to standardize the accident information collected by police across the United States. They are also recommending that police obtain cellphone records for the minutes before an accident.

So what do we know about distracted driving accidents? We know they are increasing. In 2005, distracted driving accounted for 10% of the crashes recorded in the NHTSA database. In 2009, it accounted for at least 16%.

Were you injured by a distracted driver in West Palm Beach? You can learn more about driver distraction in our article, “Driver Distraction in West Palm Beach: How Much of a Problem is Driver Distraction?” If you’d like to discuss your accident with an accident attorney in West Palm Beach, contact the Law Offices of Craig Goldenfarb and ask to schedule a free consultation.

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