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Is distracted driving much worse than the data suggests?

While most drivers across California understand that using their phones while behind the wheel poses a danger to others, data shows that the majority of drivers do it anyway. Some experts believe that the crash information that is currently available is seriously underestimating the number of fatalities due to distracted driving. 

As the Insurance Journal reports, crash data from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration shows that fatalities on the road have risen nearly 15 percent in two years. These numbers are especially bad for pedestrians, motorcyclists, and those riding bikes, who may be especially difficult to notice by a driver who does not have his or her full attention on the road. With some statistics saying that 88 percent of car trips have at least one instance of distracted driving due to a smartphone, this problem could continue to worsen. While the NHTSA data only attributes 448 deaths in 2015 to phone usage, a big clue that the problem could be much more serious is that more than half of car accidents in 2015 happened when the driver was heading straight down the road with no real obstacle.

Another reason the numbers could be artificially low is that the NHTSA relies on data gathered by each state, and there is no unified system for determining the origins of a car crash. In each state, there are smaller towns and cities' law enforcement officers working to figure out how a car accident occurred, and the majority of accident reports they must complete do not include mobile phones as one of the factors in a crash. So far, only 11 states include cellphone distraction in their accident report.

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