Cellphone use underreported in Pennsylvania car accidents

Every year transportation officials tell us how dangerous it is to use a cellphone while driving. What we didn’t know is that it is even more dangerous than they originally thought. According to officials at the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, cellphone use while driving is grossly underreported in car accidents. PennDOT spokeswoman Fritzi Schreffler says that it can be difficult to know exactly how many accidents are caused by driver cellphone use because people don’t want to admit to doing it. Officers don’t always see the driver on their phone, so they are unable to report it.

In Pennsylvania, statistics in the mid-state show that less than 1 percent of accidents were caused by cellphone use in the last six years. Talking on the phone falls under the category of distracted driving. According to a state trooper, there is no separate category on the police incident report for officers to report cellphone-related crashes. Any incident involving a phone would fall under the “human error: distracted driving” category. The number of mid-state accidents caused by distracted driving is nearly 14,000. Distracted driving includes any activity that takes the driver’s focus away from driving.

PennDOT reportedly uses local and state police reports to collect their data. Distracted driving is separate from cellphone use in that officers list it as a contributing factor. Drivers using handheld devices are separated from those using Bluetooth.

According to a Pennsylvania State Trooper, drivers in Pennsylvania cannot be ticketed for distracted driving by itself. However, they can be ticketed for operating their motor vehicle unsafely. This negligent use of motor vehicles tragically causes numerous deaths each year.

Source: Penn Live, “Cellphone-related crashes ‘grossly underreported’: PennDOT official,” Christian Alexandersen, Nov. 17, 2015