IMPROVING the way car crashes are reported could lead to fewer road deaths and better road safety campaigns, according to Essex University research.

The study led by Dr Jonathan Rolison from the university’s department of Psychology showed mobile phone use, driving while under the influence of drink or drugs and poor vision may be contributing to even more accidents than previously thought.

Dr Rolison, who worked alongside academics at the Queen’s University Belfast, believes lives could be saved if there was a change to how accidents are logged.

He said: “To improve road safety, insight is needed into preventable causes of road accidents. Our research has uncovered inadequacies in the way the police record accident information.

“In particular the ‘contributing factors list’ in accident reports needs to be continuously updated to ensure accident statistics reflect the full range of factors that contribute to accidents. Our results also suggest using a mobile app to fill in accident reports at the scene, rather than back at the station, would also be beneficial.”

In the study, researchers investigated the main causes of road accidents by asking expert views of police officers, the opinions of drivers and official road accident records for all one and two-car accidents in the UK between 2005 and 2012.

Participants were given details of six hypothetical accidents and were asked to identify what caused each one.

Their responses were then compared to the factors recorded in official accident reports.

Both police officers and the public identified drugs or alcohol, excessive speed, inexperience and distraction as typical of young driver collisions and medical conditions and poor eyesight as typical of older driver collisions.

Driver distraction was viewed as a more typical problem for female drivers, while drugs or alcohol was rated as more likely to contribute to accidents involving men.

Dr Rolison added: “Our investigation revealed some interesting discrepancies with the factors reported in road accident records.

“While police officers identified driver distraction, and in particular mobile phone use, for the hypothetical scenarios, this factor was rarely reported in the accident records.

“Either mobile phone use is an under-reported factor in accidents or police officers have exaggerated beliefs about the dangers of using mobile phones while driving.”