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Distracted driving may be more deadly than once thought

Nashville drivers have probably heard a lot in recent years about the dangers posed by drivers who are texting or talking on cell phones and not paying attention to the road. Recently, a report concluded that the danger is actually worse than many observers previously thought.

A study by the private National Safety Council suggests that the number of car accident deaths caused by distracted drivers is seriously underreported. In fact, the advocacy group says the number may be twice as high as what the government has been reporting. The group argues that underreporting the numbers leads to insufficient action from local governments when they try to combat the problem.

The study looked at 180 fatal accidents during the years 2009-2011 where there was strong evidence that a driver had been using a cell phone at the time of the accident, but found that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration did not code them its database as involving cell phones. Researchers said part of the problem may be that drivers who survived the fatal crashes do not want to admit to having used a cell phone.

Researchers also noted that the states have widely different reporting methods which may lead to errors in national statistics. Tennessee reported the highest number of cell phone-related accidents, with 93 on record in 2011, while New York, with a population three times the size of Tennessee's, reported only one cell phone-related fatal accident that year.

Tennessee residents who are injured in car accidents can have huge medical expenses, lost wages and other losses. The families of those killed in car accidents suffer financial losses too. When these losses are caused by another driver's negligence, the injured or their families may be compensated through a personal injury lawsuit.

Source: WKRN-TV, "Study: Distracted driving deaths underreported," Joan Lowy, May 8, 2013

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