Fatal accidents caused by distracted drivers may be underreported

A new study by the National Safety Council suggests that the number of fatal accidents caused by distracted drivers on cellphones may be much higher than reported in Missouri and across the country. The council recently reviewed 180 fatal car accidents that occurred from 2009 to 2011 in which there was strong reason to believe the driver was on a cellphone and found that only half were actually recorded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration as involving cellphone use.

Texting and driving became a prominent issue in Kansas City nearly two years ago when a 16-year-old driver caused an accident that killed a 72-year-old woman. According to authorities, the young driver was looking at her cellphone and listening to loud music when the accident happened.

Missouri's efforts to crack d own on distracted driving

Missouri is one of only six states that legally allows drivers 21 years of age and older to text while driving. There are three proposals currently before legislators that would ban texting while driving and require all cellular devices used while driving to be hands-free. None of the proposals have hearings scheduled, and all three appear unlikely to be considered before the legislature breaks, according to The Kansas City Star. According to the Missouri Highway Patrol, 1,625 accidents occurred in the state in 2012 as a result of drivers using cellphones while driving, and over 30 percent of those collisions resulted in injuries; 12 of the accidents resulted in a fatality.

Opponents to the bills say that the number of wrecks don't justify new legislation. Representative Nick Marshall, for instance, claims that accident rates in Missouri have gone down over the past decade while texting has increased. He also asserts that he can't envision any way that police could realistically enforce a texting ban, according to The Kansas City Star.

Federal law may force the issue

Despite resistance to a texting ban from some state lawmakers, federal regulations may leave the state with little choice. The legislature is advancing legislation that would ban texting and using a hand-held cellphone for anyone operating a commercial vehicle. Unlike the other proposed measures, this legislation has been supported because it would prevent the state from losing $30 million to $60 million in annual transportation funding.

Regardless of its legality, many drivers will likely continue to text. Even a few seconds of distraction can cause a crash that leads to devastating damage, and victims may suffer serious injury, disability or death.

If you have been injured in a crash caused by another driver's distraction or negligence, speak with an experienced personal injury attorney to determine your right to compensation.

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