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Are cell phones more to blame for crashes than we think?

While many drivers across Missouri try to give their full attention to the road, their cell phones compete for their attention. Some experts believe this growing problem could be even more of an issue than the numbers show.

As the Insurance Journal reports, only 448 deaths were attributed to cell phone usage behind the wheel in the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration's data for 2015. These numbers suggest that drunk driving is far more deadly than being distracted by a phone while on the road, but research has shown that both activities result in about the same level of impairment for drivers. Those numbers also do not help to explain why roadway fatalities increased almost 15 percent in the past two years, especially for pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcyclists. But some experts believe this is because distracted driving is even more dangerous than the data leads us to believe.

With some statistics putting phone usage behind the wheel at 88 percent of trips, and more than half of fatal accidents in 2015 happening while the driver was simply driving straight without any weather conditions or cross-traffic in their paths, cell phone distraction a likely suspect. Data from the NHTSA relies on collection from the states, and so far, only 11 have accident reports that include phone distraction as an option to check as a factor in a crash. Another issue is that with so many apps that can steal a driver's attention away from the road, investigators often have no way of getting the information about their use, even with a court order calls and texts are often all that will be reported.

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