Distracted driving leading cause of crashes

Drivers use cellphones on Elm Street and on College Avenue.

In Columbia, distracted driving was the most common cause of traffic collisions from 2005 to 2015, according to reports filed with the Missouri State Highway Patrol’s Statewide Traffic Accident Records System (STARS). Although the number of reports filed are declining, the percentage of accidents caused by distractions because of a communication device have increased.

Distraction leads list of crash causes

Note: The most frequent contributing circumstance in those crashes analyzed is “Unknown,” which has 20,642 crashes. The five charted circumstances are next to “Unknown.” A crash can have multiple contributing circumstances.

Distraction by communication device increased by percentage

Fewer reports, not fewer crashes

Citing manpower issues, the Columbia Police Department changed its policy in November 2009 regarding its response to minor collisions. If an accident did not result in death, injuries or require a tow truck, police would not record details in a standardized report but instead would tell the motorists involved to fill out an online report.

STARS reports filed dropped by more than 60 percent between 2005 to 2015 — but the number of 911 calls regarding collisions remained largely the same. Columbia Police could not readily provide data about self-filed reports for those years.

85 people died in traffic crashes from 2005 to 2015

The number of fatalities fluctuated from 2005 to 2015 with an upward trend after a sharp decrease in 2010.

Alcohol and speeding biggest factors in fatal crashes

Of the 78 fatal accidents from 2005 to 2015, a fixed object was the designated crash type in 37 accidents. A motor vehicle in transport and pedestrian crashes followed with 22 and 9, respectively.

Fixed object tops crash types in fatal crashes

Among the fatal crashes where fixed objects were involved, 11 were related to trees or stumps and 11 to curbs. A total of 71 crashes involve a fixed object even though the fixed object is not the designated crash type in 34 of the crashes.

Trees, curbs most common objects in fatal crashes

Among the 37 fatal crashes where fixed objects were involved, 11 were related to trees, stumps or curbs.

Note: Records from the Columbia Police Department and State Highway Patrol are complete through 2015, while those from the MU Police and Boone County Sheriff’s Departments are incomplete after July 2015. Records from the MU Police and Boone County Sheriff’s Departments account for 2,932 of 25,228 records analyzed in this report.

Sources: Missouri State Highway Patrol, Columbia Police Department, Boone County Joint Communications, Missourian reporting.

Supervising editor is Mike Jenner.

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