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We might not be so sure of distracted driving stats after all

We are reminded of the dangers of distracted driving almost every day. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), nearly 400,000 accidents were caused by distracted drivers in 2015. Those numbers continue to rise today, but are the statistics that accurate? According to new research, the impact of texting and driving could be worse than we thought.

Distracted driving is on the rise

According to Bloomberg, traffic-related deaths surged by nearly 15 percent in 2016. This rise was shocking because, historically, deaths on the road have decreased since automobile manufacturers put more safety features in cars, drivers wore their seatbelts more often and drunken driving declined. 

Although safety features are advancing every day, so is the intrusion of distractions by smartphones and technology in our lives, and data collectors are having trouble keeping up. According to new research, government data may under-represent the actual impact of distracted driving.

Problems with data collection

The research cites two main causes of the potential under-reporting of distracted driving crashes:

1. State and local governments don't collect the same information

There are 50 states in our country and countless county and city governments, meaning there is an infinite number of ways law enforcement in each jurisdiction could collect data on accidents.

This problem is created by the inherent nature of federalism because it means there is no uniform way to collect the data. The federal government relies on state data and states rely on local data. Therefore, the numbers might get lost in translation on their way up the chain.

2. Blaming a crash on distracted driving is difficult

When police are investigating the cause of an accident, they may be trained to better look for things other than distracted driving. It is hard to say for sure whether or not a driver is distracted before a crash because privacy laws prohibit law enforcement access to a personal device without a warrant or subpoena.

As one safety advocate quoted in Bloomberg said, "We don't have a Breathalyzer for a phone."

If you are the victim of a distracted driving accident, a personal injury attorney can help you investigate the cause of the crash in addition to a formal police investigation. This process can open up more options to victims who may need compensation for injuries but aren't receiving adequate help from police or their insurance company.

As technology outpaces the law, distractions could continue to rise behind the wheel. This notion will force drivers, attorneys and law enforcement alike to find new ways to investigate the cause of crashes.

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