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Fatal auto accidents linked to cellphones may be underreported

The number of fatal car crashes caused by distracted driving in Wisconsin and across the country may be much higher than originally thought. The National Safety Council, an advocacy group, recently released its findings from a study of state and federal data on auto accidents from 2009 to 2011. The group found that out of 180 car crashes in which there was strong evidence that the driver had been using a cell phone, less than half were recorded in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's database as having involved a cellphone.

In 2011, half of the accidents were indicated in the records to be cellphone-linked. However, only 35 percent of 2010 accident were coded that way, and only eight percent of the 2009 accidents were recorded as involving a cellphone. Even in accidents when drivers admitted they were on the phone, only 50 percent were coded as such.

Experts assert that this is an important issue because the NHTSA's statistics are used by state legislatures to either support or oppose driving legislation. If the fatal accident numbers have been underreported, that may have influenced regulations on driving with a cellphone. Only 10 states require hand-free cell phones for drivers while 36 states ban cellphone use for novice drivers. Thirty-nine states currently ban texting while driving.

Accidents caused by distracted drivers can cause devastating injuries and costly expenses. Victims of another driver's negligence may be entitled to financial compensation and may benefit from speaking with a personal injury attorney. An experienced attorney could examine the case, the victim's injuries and the expenses incurred and determine if a suit is warranted and its likelihood for success. The attorney could also advocate and negotiate on behalf of the victim to potentially obtain the most financially favorable outcome.

Source: ABC 19 WXOW, "Study: Distracted driving deaths underreported", Joan Lowy, May 07, 2013

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