Why cell phone-related automobile accidents are underreported

On Behalf of | Feb 8, 2024 | Motor vehicle accidents |

West Virginia motorists should know by now that using a cell phone while driving can be extremely dangerous and even deadly. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association, roughly 43,000 people in the United States died in automobile accidents in 2021. However, per the agency’s data, only 377 or less than 1% of these accidents were caused by cell phone-related distractions.

Many experts believe that the reported number is too low and that significantly more people were injured or killed because of distracted driving caused by cell phone usage. Let’s look at a few reasons why this may be the case.

The source of the information

The NHTSA’s information on how these accidents were caused comes from police reports. Only reports that specifically mention cell phones as being a factor are used to compile these statistics.

For most motor vehicle accidents, the information in those police reports is supplied by the drivers themselves. Most people aren’t going to admit to a police officer that they were using a phone while driving, especially in a state where it’s illegal.

Other reasons for underreporting

There are a few other major reasons why cell phone-related automobile accidents are underreported. Distracted driving is a major cause of automobile accidents but the exact nature of the distraction can be difficult to determine. Police have limited time and resources and investigating a motor vehicle accident where no crime is believed to have been committed limits their ability to investigate murders and other violent crimes. Subpoenaing cell phone records is expensive and time-consuming, so police and lawyers generally won’t do it unless they believe a crime has been committed or if legal action has been initiated.

Final thoughts

Cell phone-related automobile accidents are underreported because the statistics come from police reports. Unless a crime has been committed, the exact cause of distracted driving is often not investigated. They also rely on eyewitness testimony, which can be inaccurate or even nonexistent.