Motor vehicle crash reports missing key data, NSC says

Undercounted is underinvested

The motor vehicle crash reports used by law enforcement nationwide are missing vital information, which hinders attempts to address the recent increase in traffic fatalities, according to the National Safety Council.

Preliminary estimates from NSC show that as many as 40,000 people died in motor vehicle-related crashes in 2016, an increase of 6 percent from the previous year and 14 percent from 2014.

To help combat the issue, NSC conducted a review of crash reports across the United States and found:

  • No state has a field or code to indicate the level of driver fatigue.
  • 32 states do not identify a specific type of drug use.
  • 32 states lack a field to indicate a driver was using a hands-free cellphone.
  • 26 states do not record that a driver was texting.

States also do not record use of advanced driver assistance technologies (50), infotainment systems (47) and teen driver restrictions (35).

The council released a report detailing its findings. In the report, Undercounted is underinvested: How incomplete crash reports impact efforts to save lives, NSC recommends that states move toward electronic crash reports and update forms more often to record new driving issues that arise.

“The road to zero deaths is paved with potholes,” Deborah A.P. Hersman, president and CEO of NSC, said in a press release. “Someone is seriously injured on our roads every 8 seconds; someone is killed every 15 minutes. In too many cases, we are gathering the ‘what’ but not the ‘why,’ and better data will enable us to make better decisions.”