Police reports often fail to capture causes of car accidents

A new study has found that police reports across the nation fail to capture common causes of accidents.

Distracted, drugged, and drowsy driving are some of the most common causes of car accidents, yet most states fail to include information about these causes on police reports. According to Forbes, a recently released report by the National Safety Council found that no state uses police report reforms that fully capture the major causes of motor vehicle accidents, which in turn makes it difficult to address how to prevent those accidents in the first place. The incomplete police reports are especially concerning given that traffic fatalities have risen dramatically across the U.S. in the last couple years.

Incomplete police reports

The report found that police report forms were lacking in all 50 states. Some disturbing findings of the report include the fact that 26 states don't have section on police reports to capture incidents of texting, 32 states have no field for hands-free cellphone use, 32 states have no field to record what specific drug a driver tested positive for, and no state had a field that would allow police to record how fatigued a driver was at the time of an accident. Also, no states had fields on police reports to capture the role that advanced driver assistance technologies played in crashes, despite a growing body of evidence that such technologies can be just as distracting as cellphones.

The National Safety Council identified 23 crash factors that it says should be included in police reports, but currently no state comes anywhere close to including all 23 factors in their police reports. Kansas and Wisconsin currently include the most crash factors on their reports, with 14 each. Missouri police reports currently only include 10 of the recommended crash factors.

Identifying accident causes

The failure of police reports to fully capture why and how accidents happen is a big obstacle towards preventing those accidents from happening in the first place. Incomplete police reports lead to common causes of accidents, such as distracted and drowsy driving, being underrepresented in official statistics. That makes these problems seem far less pressing than they actually are.

The issue is especially concerning given that fatal accidents are rising dramatically. As the New York Times reports, an estimated 40,200 people died in motor vehicle accidents in 2016, the first time fatalities have exceeded 40,000 since 2007. In the past two years traffic fatalities have risen by 14 percent, the steepest rise since the 1960s.

Personal injury law

As motor vehicle accidents continue to rise, it is important for accident victims to know where they can turn to for help. A personal injury attorney can assist victims in a number of ways, including with helping them pursue financial compensation for their injuries, especially if the accident was a result of another driver's negligence or recklessness.