Motor vehicle accidents can occur for a wide variety of reasons, some of them within the control of drivers, and some of them not so much in drivers’ control. Whenever an accident occurs, law enforcement is one of the first to be on the scene and to begin gathering information. Law enforcement officers use standard procedures and standard forms to gather crash information, and this information is valuable for crash victims who later seek compensation for injuries and fatalities.

Unfortunately, law enforcement doesn’t always gather the type or extent of information that really allows the public in general, and crash victims in particular, to understand why accidents occur. According to a new report by the nonprofit National Safety Council, some of the most common preventable causes of accidents—fatigue, intoxication, drug use, and distraction—are not adequately accounted for in crash reports. 

Some of the common areas where crash reports forms lack documentation fields are texting, hands-free cell phone use; and certain types of drug use, including marijuana. No states currently use crash report forms that record the level of driver fatigue. Other areas where data is often not captured after a crash are the use of advanced driver assistance technologies, teen driver restrictions, and the use of infotainment systems. Out of the 23 different factors the National Safety Council identified as important to record in crash reports, law enforcement officers in Kentucky apparently only routinely record five of them.

To help improve crash data collection, the group recommends that states: update their forms to gather information about emerging issues in motor vehicle accidents; make use of electronically stored information about crashes; implement electronic reporting; and adopt an investigatory approach to crash documentation.

In our next post, we’ll continue looking at this topic, and how an experienced personal injury attorney can help crash victims gather the information they need to build the strongest possible case.