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Police reports give incomplete data on causes of car crashes

The National Safety Council has released a report called "Undercounted is Underinvested: How Incomplete Crash Reports Impact Efforts to Save Lives." The results are startling: No state has fields or codes for the police to record all the possible factors in car crashes. Referring to various government and traffic safety organizations, the NSC identified 23 crash factors. Mississippi residents will want to know which states fare the best.

Kansas and Wisconsin came in first by capturing 14 of the 23 critical factors, followed by Maryland, Kentucky and Nebraska, which captured only five. All states lack fields for reporting driver fatigue and the use of advanced driver assistance technologies. Concerning the use of infotainment systems, only three states have fields for police to report it.

Police in 26 states cannot report texting among drivers, and police in 32 states cannot mention hands-free cellphone use. Reports in 32 states lack fields for recording the results of positive drug tests. Specifically, Alaska, California, Oregon and Washington, or half of all states that decriminalized recreational marijuana use, fail to let police report positive marijuana results on drug tests.

Lastly, alcohol impairment below the legal limit is left unreported in Arizona, California, Colorado, Maine, New York and Virginia. The NSC recommends law enforcement and traffic safety organizations to collect data electronically and take an investigative approach to accidents.

Thorough police reports are essential to determining and addressing the causes of auto accidents. Victims who intend to file a personal injury claim may find these reports to be indispensable as well. A victim's lawyer might bring in third-party investigators to gather proof, such as physical evidence at the crash site and eyewitness testimony. The lawyer may then proceed to settlement negotiations or prepare the case for court.

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