Cars are better, drivers are worse
Roadways are becoming increasingly dangerous for drivers, particularly in light of the fact that more people are on the road. According to The Wall Street Journal, travel through June of this year has increased 3.5% to a record 1.54 trillion miles. The American Automobile Association notes that gas prices have plunged to their lowest levels since 2010. In addition, unemployment rates have fallen to 5.1%, meaning people are more willing to drive and they’re driving their cars to work more often.
In the words of Allstate’s Chief Executive Tom Wilson, “More miles driven, more cars on the road, more accidents.” The figure that really sticks out is the number of crashes resulting in fatalities. There have been vast improvements in automotive technology to protect drivers, but motor-vehicle deaths are expected to exceed 40,000 for the first time since 2007. Warren Buffett, a prestigious American business magnate, said it best in an email with The Wall Street Journal: “If cars are better—and they clearly are—drivers must be worse.”
Undoubtedly an increase in the number of drivers on the road will play an influential part in the number of crashes and fatalities, but there are other factors that are often overlooked. Driving under the influence and the failure to wear a seat belt have always been damning issues for car crashes, but cell phone usage might be more prevalent in fatal accidents than anticipated.
Driver cell phone usage is likely the cause for a quarter of all car crashes in America according to the National Safety Council (NSC). This number is probably a low estimate due to the lack of a reliable method to accurately determine how many crashes involve cell phone use. Driving under the influence can be discovered through objective testing, while seat belt usage, for the most part, is pretty cut and dried.
According to the NSC, some factors that might contribute to the under-reporting of cell phone related accidents include:
- Police must often rely on drivers to admit to cell phone use. This is not possible when drivers are not forthcoming or are seriously injured or deceased.
- The memories and statements of witnesses may be inaccurate.
- Police may not fully investigate cell phone use, particularly if cell phone use is not a violation in their jurisdiction.
- Cell phone use may not be identified in cases of a more obvious violation (such as speeding or lane departure), or if a more serious violation is involved (such as alcohol or other drug impairments).
- If cell phone use is identified as a contributing factor at a later date, such as during the police investigation or during a court case, the crash report may not be updated.
- Cell phone records can be difficult to obtain from wireless companies.
- If cell phone records are obtained, data must align with the precise moment of the crash – a moment which is not always known.
Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) is a nationwide census providing the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Congress, and the American public with data regarding fatal injuries suffered in motor vehicle traffic crashes. FARS makes it possible to review crash records in order to identify whether driver cell phone use was recorded.
To provide some insight into how under-reporting may occur, The National Safety Council reviewed a small sample of fatal crashes occurring between 2009 and 2011. NSC examined 180 fatal crashes where evidence indicated a driver was using a cell phone. Their findings revealed that when the driver admitted to using a cell phone, cell phone use was listed as a crash factor only 50% of the time.
Driver admission of cell phone use is the most valid way to confirm that phone use was a factor in a crash. When the most prominent evidence only gets recorded half of the time, who knows the magnitude of unrecorded accidents in which a cell phone is the primary crash factor.
It’s sad to think about the number of fatal accidents that could be prevented if drivers were more cautious. Regardless of the crash factor, cars are improving but drivers are not. Below are a few government websites to help protect the road from impaired and drunk drivers. You can read about what’s being done to make the roads a safer place and learn how to support these campaigns for change.
If you or someone you know has been involved in an Indiana motor vehicle accident, contact an attorney to discuss your rights. There are a variety of steps that need to be taken to preserve and support your claim. Our consultations are always free and there are no obligations. You can speak with an attorney directly by calling or click here to submit a “Get Help Now” form.