Despite grant incentives and a new federal transportation law, states across the country have stalled in adopting 15 basic traffic safety laws recommended by experts, according to the 10th annual report card by Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety.
New York has been the most progressive, adopting 13 of the 15 laws that tackle teen driver-licensing laws, distracted-driving laws and occupant protection programs, including booster seat requirements, notes the 2013 Roadmap of State Highway Safety Laws report.
Last year only 10 state highway safety laws were enacted, in contrast to 16 laws passed in 2011 and 22 laws passed in 2010.
"The traffic safety progress we've made since 2005 is at risk of being undone," said Jacqueline Gillan, president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety. "Several states have been moving backwards and most states are not moving at all to enact lifesaving laws."
"States that take action will benefit threefold," Gillan says. First, preventable deaths and injuries will be reduced;
Second, medical and work loss costs associated with crashes often borne by states such as Medicaid, hospitalization, emergency responders and law enforcement will be saved; and, Third, states will reap financial benefits by qualifying for federal grants.
This is a win for motorists, for state budgets, and for taxpayers.
While it is welcoming news that 2011 highway deaths have fallen to 32,367, a 1.9% decrease from 2010, it is concerning that preliminary figures for the first nine months of 2012 indicate a 7.1% increase in fatalities compared to 2011. Moreover, annual costs to society from motor vehicle crashes remain at more than $230 billion. There is no better time for states to act than now."
The report says that after New York, the next safest are the District of Columbia, Illinois, Kansas, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Delaware, Georgia, Rhode Island and Washington.
South Dakota has the worst record, with only three of the laws on the books, followed by Mississippi, Arizona, Montana, Nebraska, Wyoming, Iowa, Florida, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Carolina and Texas.
And advocates for safety are especially disappointed with Michigan for failing to protect its residents by repealing its 30-year-old motorcycle helmet requirement law.
To read the complete report, please visit:
2013 Roadmap of States Highway Safety Laws
As much as we may dislike the proliferation of laws and regulations, they're necessary to public safety if we want to discourage motorists from choosing distractions (cell phones and texting) that place you and me at risk; if we want to impose penalties on drunk drivers that are equivalent to their destruction; and if we want to address the menace of mentally compromised senior drivers or let it continue to go unchecked.