When talking about traffic safety trends in San Francisco, the media tends to rely on data from the San Francisco Police Department. But the police are reporting only a fraction of serious traffic accidents, according to a new study discussed on SF Streets Blog.
The stud from the city Department of Public Health says that the SFPD did not report more than 60 percent of severe traffic injuries that occurred from April 2014 to April 2015. The report based this shocking figure on information from SF General Hospital, home of San Francisco’s only Level 1 trauma center.
Over that 12-month period, 515 patients were admitted to the hospital with severe motor vehicle injuries. But only 200 of those injuries ended up in a police report, the Department of Public Health study found. The study defined “severe injuries” as ones requiring more than 24 hours of hospitalization, so we are not talking about bumps and bruises here. In fact, many such injuries lead to long-term, if not permanent disability.
Why do police fail to report most of these very serious injuries? The study’s lead researcher notes that officers are not “trained medical professionals” and may miss symptoms. Also, SFPD does not handle auto accidents on freeways, so the department may not count injuries that happen there. Researchers with SFPD believe that police do not report at least 20 percent of injuries to pedestrians who get hit by cars.
This missing data is a cause for alarm and suggests that San Francisco’s streets are even more dangerous than previously thought.