Incomplete police reports an obstacle to improving road safety

Common causes of car accidents are often left out of police reports a new study has found.

Traffic fatalities are rising across the nation, which makes identifying the causes of serious car accidents more important than ever before. However, one obstacle to identifying the causes of motor vehicle accidents is incomplete and inadequate police reports. According to Forbes, a recent study by the National Safety Council found that police report forms in all states, including West Virginia, failed to adequately capture some of the most common causes of accidents. That problem makes it increasingly difficult to address some of the greatest threats on the road, including distracted and drowsy driving.

Distracted driving underreported

As the New York Times reports, in 2016 traffic fatalities exceeded 40,000 for the first time in nine years and that over the past two years U.S. traffic fatalities have soared by 14 percent. One of the main reasons behind the rapid rise in fatalities is believed to be distracted driving, such as from texting, hands-free devices, and in-car driver assistance and infotainment systems. Given the role distracted driving plays in overall traffic fatality rates, one would expect states to be striving to identify how big an impact distractions were having on their roads.

However, the National Safety Council study found that in 26 states police reports have no field to capture whether a driver was texting at the time of an accident. Furthermore, police reports in 32 states have no field to capture the use of hands-free cellphones. The situation is even worse when it comes to distractions that are built into cars. For example, 47 states' police reports have no field to capture the use of infotainment systems and no state captures the use of advanced driver assistance technologies.

An obstacle to safety improvements

The study found that not a single state used police reports that captured 23 crash factors that the National Safety Council considers critical to understanding why accidents happen. West Virginia police reports only include 11 of those 23 crash factors. Wisconsin and Kansas included the most crash factors (14 each) on their police reports.

Inadequate police reports are a major obstacle towards improving traffic safety since they make it difficult to get a good idea about how prevalent a certain hazard is. The lack of this information on police reports can also make it more difficult for those who have been hurt by careless and negligent drivers to pursue justice in court since police reports are often relied upon in personal injury cases.

Hurt in a car accident?

Anybody who has been injured in a motor vehicle accident should contact a personal injury attorney as soon as possible. An attorney will advocate for a client's rights and will, if possible, help that client pursue whatever compensation he or she may be entitled to, especially if the accident was caused by a distracted or otherwise reckless or negligent driver.