Police accident reports gather incomplete data

On behalf of Gibbs & Fuerst, LLP posted in Car Accidents on Monday, August 12, 2019.

Road deaths in California and around the country topped 40,000 for the third consecutive year in 2018, but a report released by the National Safety Council reveals that the government agencies and nonprofit organizations tasked with improving road safety are not being provided with complete data. After examining police accident reports from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, the NSC discovered that all the information lawmakers and advocates need to reduce traffic fatalities was not being collected anywhere in the United States.

While the crash reports in all states have fields for police to record intoxication, none collect data about fatigue levels, and 32 states do not gather information about the drugs drivers were impaired by when they crashed. Distraction is often cited as one of the primary reasons for the recent worrying rise in road deaths, but 26 states do not collect data about texting after an accident, and only 18 provide police officers with a field to record hands-free cellphone use.

The NSC says that there are 23 factors that police officers should look for and record at the scene of a motor vehicle accident. The most comprehensive crash report paperwork in the country can be found in Wisconsin and Kansas where 14 of these factors are included. In Nebraska, Kentucky and Maryland, police officers gather only five. California was one of six states criticized for not collecting data on alcohol levels when accidents involve impaired drivers with blood alcohol concentrations below .08%.

Experienced personal injury attorneys generally study police reports when preparing car accident lawsuits, so they are likely familiar with many of the problems highlighted by the NSC report. When official paperwork does not provide enough information, attorneys may conduct independent inquiries. The efforts might involve canvassing the accident scene for witnesses whom police officers did not speak to and checking the area for cameras that may have recorded the events as they unfolded.