Cellphones linked to accidents, but too little data gathered

Some Rhode Island residents may have been among the approximately 100 people per day on average who died in motor vehicle accidents in 2016. Traffic fatalities are up after years of decline, and experts say it cannot be fully explained by people driving more or an increase in driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Many experts believe that the distraction of smartphones is to blame, but the way that accidents causes are tracked and recorded provides too little data.

In the past few years, ownership of smartphones has increased just as the way people use them has changed. Rather than using the phones merely to talk, people may use them to text or use apps like Facebook or Instagram, often while behind the wheel. The death rate has increased among cyclists, motorcyclists and pedestrians, and significantly, a driver distracted by a smart phone is less likely to notice these than a large vehicle.

Unfortunately, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration relies on data from individual states to explain causes of accidents, and many states do not have a system for recording cellphone use as a reason. The National Safety Council, a nonprofit, reported in a study that deadly accidents in which cellphones were a factor were only coded in that way about half the time in NHTSA databases.

When people are injured in car accidents involving a driver distracted by a cellphone, they often struggle to prove that the driver was at fault. People injured in such an accident might want to talk to an attorney about the situation. The insurance company of the driver who causes such an accident is responsible for a victim's medical expenses and other losses, and an attorney may be able to negotiate an appropriate settlement.

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