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Cellphone use is a bigger problem than NHTSA data indicates

The number of people killed in motor vehicle accidents in Nevada and around the country has soared in recent years, and many road safety experts believe that a surge in cellphone use is one of the reasons why. Surveys of American drivers suggest that cellphone use behind the wheel is extremely common, but official accident data gathered by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration indicates otherwise.

NHTSA data

According to the NHTSA, cellphone use was only a factor in 377 of the car accidents that killed almost 43,000 road users in 2021. That was at the time the highest accident death toll in 16 years. A survey of American drivers conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in 2022 tells a different story. One in five of the motorists polled by the road safety group admitted to routinely using their cellphones to watch videos, play games and read text messages.

Lack of evidence

Distraction is a thorny problem for accident investigators because it leaves no telltale clues. This means that police officers only cite distraction as the cause of an accident when motorists admit that they were not paying attention when they crashed. Police departments can obtain records from wireless service providers to determine whether or not cellphone use contributed to an accident, but this is rarely done unless a criminal case is being prepared.

Road deaths are worryingly high

Autonomous and semiautonomous technology has made modern cars extremely safe, but road deaths are still worryingly high. Distracted drivers crash because a vehicle traveling at 55 mph covers the length of a football field in just five seconds, and the accidents they cause often result in death or catastrophic injuries. To reduce distracted driving accidents and deaths, police officers dispatched to accident scenes should gather more information about cellphone use.