Most Crash Reports Don't Capture All Critical Information, Study Finds | Edmunds

Most Crash Reports Don't Capture All Critical Information, Study Finds

The majority of motor vehicle crash reports fail to include detailed information on drunk, drugged, distracted and drowsy driving, according to a new study by the National Safety Council.

For the study, titled "Undercounted Is Underinvested: How Incomplete Crash Reports Impact Efforts to Save Lives," the NSC reviewed official crash reports from all 50 U.S. states to determine whether the standard forms are capturing the data needed to understand and address the recent increase in vehicle fatalities.

The study found that none of the states' forms have a field for law enforcement to record the level of driver drowsiness at the time of a crash, although 49 have a place to indicate general driver fatigue. Another 32 reports lack fields to identify specific types of drug use, 32 don't have a field to record hands-free mobile phone use, and 26 lack fields to report texting while driving.

According to the study, 48 state crash reports do include a field to record handheld mobile phone use, but just three have a field to note distraction from infotainment systems, and only 18 record distracted driving caused by the use of electronic devices by passengers.

In total, the NSC has identified 23 crash-inducing factors that it thinks should be included on all reports. While no state currently captures all of them, Kansas and Wisconsin lead the nation by including fields for 14 of the factors. At the other end of the scale, Kentucky, Maryland and Nebraska are each capturing just five of the 23.

Preliminary NSC estimates indicate that as many as 40,000 people may have died in U.S. motor vehicle accidents in 2016, which would make it the deadliest year on the nation's roads since 2007. That would be a 6 percent increase over 2015 and a 14 percent increase from 2014, marking the most dramatic two-year jump since 1964.

"The road to zero deaths is paved with potholes," said Deborah A.P. Hersman, president and CEO of the National Safety Council, in a statement. "Someone is seriously injured on our roads every 8 seconds; someone is killed every 15 minutes. In too many cases, we are gathering the 'what' but not the 'why,' and better data will enable us to make better decisions."

In addition to suggesting more detailed crash reports, the NSC study includes a number of recommendations for law enforcement and state traffic authorities. These include more standardization, quicker response to emerging technologies and issues, increased electronic data collection, better training for law enforcement officers, and a "shift from an accident report mentality to a crash investigation focus."

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