Are distracted driving fatality statistics be too low?

When drivers in Ohio hit the road, nearly all have a smartphone with them. How much of a risk a smartphone poses is currently a matter of debate, and some experts believe that the number of fatal accidents attributed to distracted driving is far too low.

As Insurance Journal reports, only 11 states specify distraction by phone as a potential cause of a car crash on accident reports. Some worry that this can skew the numbers on traffic deaths collected by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. In 2015, the NHTSA found 448 deaths caused by mobile phone usage behind the wheel. However, traffic fatalities rose almost 15 percent in the last two years, especially amongst motorcyclists, bicyclists, and pedestrians, who are the easiest to miss if you do not have your full attention on the road. 

There are several reasons experts believe that phone use while driving is being underestimated. FIrst of all, just the sheer number of people who have smartphones has risen to 81 percent of Americans in 2016. Research from Zendrive also found that 88 percent of trips included at least on distraction from a phone. Additionally, in 2015, more than half of drivers were simply heading straight when they were in a fatal crash, rather than during a turn or dealing with cross-traffic, which could be an indication of distraction.

Finally, investigators have significant difficulties in finding that a phone caused a distraction conclusively. In order to see a driver's phone records a court order is needed, and often only calls and texts are reported. Yet phones now have so many different functionalities that this does not cover all of the possibilities, and with new apps constantly coming on the market, being able to determine what may have caused a distraction is increasingly difficult.

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