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New study shows distracted driving underreported

A new study by the National Safety Council shows that state and federal figures related to distracted-driving crashes may be underreported, leading to misleading ideas about the prevalence of this problem. For families considering a wrongful death claim against a distracted driver, the failure of law enforcement to report cell phone use and other activity that leads to an accident can have serious implications on the recovery of damages.

Experts believe that false reporting makes up the majority of the problem relating to low distracted driving figures. Police officers may report distracted driving accidents as due to driver inexperience or other factors, neglecting to investigate or mention the role cell phone use played in the crash. For example, New York reported only a handful of distracted driving deaths in 2010 and 2011 while Tennessee reported dozens. It is more likely that New York law enforcement simply failed to note the use of cell phones rather than that Tennessee had far more distracted driving crashes.

The study reviewed 180 fatal car accidents occurring between 2009 and 2011 and found that only half were coded as involving cell phone use although there was a high probability that cell phones played a significant role in the collisions. Reporting is up, however, with only eight percent being reported in 2010 and 35 percent in 2011. Drivers may fail to report their own cell phone use and investigators may fail to note that the victim of a fatal crash was texting or calling prior to the collision.

Personal injury attorneys may represent the victims of a car accident caused by distracted driving or the families of those who have died in these crashes. In some cases, distracted drivers may be liable for damages to victims or their families.

Source: CBS News, "Study: Distracted driving deaths underreported", May 07, 2013

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