When a police officer reports to the scene of a fatal car accident, he or she has a difficult job to handle. That police officer needs to make a record of what happened, what caused the crash, the identities of the people involved and several other details that relate to the incident. This task usually involves talking to any witnesses and attempting to piece together what happened before a collision occurred. This is often a very emotional scene that can also be extremely chaotic if people are being pulled from destroyed vehicles and rushed to the nearest hospital in an attempt to save their lives.
Given the reality of these situations, police officers will likely determine a cause for a crash based on the evidence at hand including those eyewitness accounts. For instance, if someone saw a driver run through a red light or miss a turn and then cause a fatal crash, that is likely what will be recorded as the cause. For the most part, people will rightfully place a lot of credibility on these police reports, as officers have the experience necessary to compile them accurately.
However, a recent study indicates that a troubling number of these accident reports may not be accurate, and the study specifically states that many of these incidents were actually caused by drivers who were distracted by a cell phone. The study was done by an advocacy group known as the National Safety Council, and a synopsis of their report recently appeared in the Las Vegas Sun. The general conclusion was that while people may miss a turn, for instance, that may have happened because the driver did not see the curve in the road because he or she was having a conversation on the phone.
The researchers reviewed 180 fatal crashes where there was some indication that a cell phone may have been involved, and their findings included the following:
- Only half of the crashes studied from 2011 were entered as having been caused by cell phone use in the database that’s maintained by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
- Only 35 percent of the fatal crashes studied from 2010 contained a notation regarding cell phone use prior to the crash.
- Only 8 percent of the fatal crashes from 2009 were recorded as such.
The conclusion drawn by the study was that fatal crashes that were really caused by cell phone use are severely underreported across the United States and that this problem could be much worse than the available data would suggest. While the trend in terms of percentages suggests that the reporting is getting better, it still leaves a wide range of uncertainty as to the extent of this serious public safety problem.
People need to take every precaution if they are going to use a cell phone while driving, and some people frankly should not use them while behind the wheel. Our work as Las Vegas accident lawyers has involved helping too many people who have been harmed because of this mistake, and the entire team at Bernstein & Poisson hopes that more awareness will arise with regards to this issue.