The lack of reliable crash data results in lost funding for tribes and BIA that could be used to correct safety hazards, improve roads, or promote traffic safety. It reportedly also results in lost or delayed insurance payments for individuals because they have difficulty obtaining crash reports when their vehicles are involved in motor vehicle crashes. Most importantly, opportunities to save lives and injuries are lost because data that could help identify factors contributing to motor vehicle crashes are unavailable.
Several factors have been suggested as potentially contributing to this problem:
shortage of experienced law enforcement staff, resources, and training;
varying crash reporting policies among tribal administrations;
limited availability of electronic databases and other information technology;
concerns about ultimate uses of crash data and potentially negative impacts to tribal members;
concerns about driver privacy;
lack of clarity or understanding of state reporting requirements;
conflicting requirements by the State of South Dakota and the Bureau of Indian Affairs;
differences in crash investigation and reporting protocols;
poorly established networks of communication among agencies;
inadequate institutional arrangements between state and tribal agencies.
Other factors may also apply, but until the extent of the problem is determined and contributing factors are accurately identified, significant improvements to crash reporting are unlikely.
Importance: Motor vehicle crashes are known to be a leading cause of death for Native Americans. According to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Controls WISQARS (http://www.cdc.gov/ncipc/wisqars), the crude death rate for motor vehicle crashes for all races in South Dakota for the years 2000-2002 was 24.19 per 100,000 population while it was 73.92 for the Native American/Alaska Native population. (This data is based on ICD-10 codes from death certificates.) In other words, Native Americans/Alaska Natives die at three times the rate of all other South Dakotans due to motor vehicle crashes.