Driver distraction is an under-reported cause of road accidents: An examination of the discrepancy between police officers' views and road accident reports

Shirley Regev, Jonathan J Rolison, Aidan Feeney, Salissou Moutari

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

Abstract

Police records represent the primary source of data on the role of driver distraction in crashes. It is commonly assumed that officers attending the crash scene tend to underreport driver distraction
as a contributing factor in crashes. However, this assumption has never been explicitly tested. Thus, the
goal of this study was to empirically estimate the presence of underreporting bias of driver distraction
in police crash reports. We also explored whether such underreporting vary with respect to the age and
gender of the driver. To this end, we presented police officers with hypothetical crash scenarios involving drivers from different age and gender groups. For each scenario, officers estimated the possible
factors they believed to have contributed to the collision. We assessed the under-reporting of distraction-related crashes by comparing police officers’ views with real crash reports. Our findings show that
officers more often viewed distractive behaviours inside the vehicle as a cause of collisions than was
evident in the crash reports. This difference was particularly pronounced with respect to mobile phone
use as a cause of crashes. In contrast, officers’ views and accidents records were similar with regard to
the involvement of outside-vehicle distraction in crashes. Overall, the results substantiate claims that
police reports do not provide reliable information on the role of driver distraction in crashes. In particular, the dangers of mobile phone use whilst driving have been severely underestimated.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the Fifth International Conference on Driver Distraction and Inattention, DIDI2017 e-Proceedings collection
Number of pages21
Publication statusPublished - 22 Mar 2017

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