For three consecutive years, from 2016 to 2018, the number of roadway deaths in California and across the U.S. has exceeded 40,000. There are a number of factors that must be considered before the real reason for a crash can be determined. According to the National Safety Council, there are 23 such factors. Unfortunately, a recent NSC study found that no state captures all 23 of these factors in its police reports.

The NSC report is entitled “Undercounted Is Underinvested: How Incomplete Crash Reports Impact Efforts to Save Lives.” The factors that any police report should be able to capture include levels of driver fatigue, texting, the use of hands-free devices and the use of drugs that can be identified on positive drug tests, such as marijuana. To date, no state has fields or codes for police to measure driver fatigue.

As for texting, 26 states do not capture this data. Police reports in 32 states have no field for hands-free phone use or marijuana use. Advances in technology are little regarded, too. No state captures the use of driver assistance systems, and 47 fail to include a field for infotainment system use. The NSC recommends a stronger focus on these technologies, a more investigatory approach to crashes and a move toward electronic data collection.

This is an important finding because police reports can, among other things, serve as evidence in a personal injury claim. Those who are injured in a car wreck through little or no fault of their own and who wish to file a claim may consult with an attorney. The attorney may, in turn, bring in investigators to show just how the other side was guilty. Once the case is ready, the attorney may handle all negotiations for a fair settlement.