NATIONAL SAFETY COUNCIL/NATIONWIDE – cell phone use underreported


Cell phone use is responsible for far more distracted driving crashes than are being reported, according to a recent report from the National Safety Council and Nationwide Insurance that says cell phone distracted driving crashes are “vastly under-reported.”

The problem is in how data is collected – or not. About one-half of all crashes where drivers admitted using a cell phone were not coded that way for federal data. And no one knows the number of cases where cell phone use was a factor but was impossible to determine, for example, when a texting driver dies alone in a crash no one sees.

State by state figures also raised questions for researchers. They pointed out that in Tennessee, in 2011, 93 fatal crashes were reported involving cell phone use. The same year, New York, with a much larger population, reported only one crash related to cell phone use.

The report is titled: “Crashes Involving Cell Phones: Challenges of Collecting and Reporting Reliable Crash Data,” and was funded in part by Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company. Researchers reviewed 180 fatal crashes that happened from 2009 to 2011, with evidence indicating the driver was using a cell phone. Only 52% of the 2011 crashes were coded in the national data as involving cell phone use.

“We believe the number of crashes involving cell phone use is much greater than what is being reported,” said Janet Froetscher president and CEO of the National Safety Council, in a news release on the study. “Many factors, from drivers not admitting cell phone use, to a lack of consistency in crash reports being used to collect data at the scene, make it very challenging to determine an accurate number.”

The report also noted that last year, for the first time in seven years, there was an increase in highway deaths. The National Safety Council estimates that cell phones are involved in 25 percent of all crashes.

At we know that distracted driving accidents and deaths are caused not only by cell phones but also by other factors – eating, drinking, applying cosmetics, even choosing music. We need accurate data, effectively communicated to help raise awareness of the dangerous of distracted driving and, to change driving habits to reduce accidents and deaths.

Related Link:

Crashes Involving Cell Phones: Challenges of Collecting and Reporting Reliable Crash Data“, National Safety Council White Paper, May 2013