Advocates Urge States to Enact 16 Laws to Curb Rise in US Traffic Deaths
Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates) today released its first Roadmap to State Highway Safety Laws: A Report on States in the Passing Lane, in the Slow Lane and Stopped on the Shoulder that found many dangerous gaps in a patchwork quilt of state highway safety laws that are contributing to the rise in U.S. highway deaths and injuries.
The report details where the 50 states and the District of Columbia pass or fail on 16 proven-effective highway safety laws in the four categories of adult occupant protection, child passenger safety, teen driving and impaired driving.
The report found that no state has all 16 laws in place. There are only a few states, such as California, North Carolina and Washington that are in the passing lane because they have most of the laws plus a primary enforcement seat belt law. There are more states stopped on the shoulder, such as Alaska, Minnesota, Mississippi, Ohio, Rhode Island and Wyoming, because they have the weakest adult occupant protection laws and have big gaps in their drunk driving, teen driving and child passenger safety laws. And, most states are crowded in the slow lane because they lack most of the 16 lifesaving traffic laws.
With the majority of state legislatures opening their 2004 sessions this month, Advocates sent the report to the nation's Governors and urged them to enact legislation this year to ensure that all 16 laws are uniformly in effect across the nation.
Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death to Americans ages 2 to 33. In 2002 alone, 6.3 million traffic crashes resulted in 42,815 deaths and 3 million injuries, representing a 12-year high. Highway crashes cost U.S. taxpayers and the economy $230 billion annually, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
While numerous lifesaving laws have been passed by states over the years, unfortunately, there is still a vast, unfinished public health and safety agenda, including enactment of primary enforcement seat belt, impaired driving, all-rider motorcycle helmet use, booster seat and teen driving laws, said Judith Lee Stone, President of Advocates. Without these laws being uniformly applied as a foundation for an aggressive traffic enforcement program, states will struggle to reverse the rising tide of highway deaths and injuries.
The report found a patchwork quilt of state traffic safety laws across the nation with gaping holes in need of repair. For example, 30 states do not have a primary enforcement seat belt law, 31 states do not require all motorcycle riders to wear a helmet, 16 states have dangerous gaps in their child restraint laws, 28 states need booster seat laws, and no state protects new teen drivers with an optimal graduated driver licensing (GDL) program. Additionally, many impaired driving laws are missing in numerous states throughout the nation.
In contrast, every person flying on every airplane, in every state, is subject to the same uniform safety laws and regulations set by the federal government, said Jacqueline Gillan, vice president of Advocates. This uniformity has been the foundation for achieving an exemplary aviation safety record in the U.S. Were this the case for motor vehicle travel, and nearly every state had the same essential traffic safety laws, thousands of deaths and millions of injuries could be prevented. This report shows that we are a long way from achieving this goal.
Mike Wozniak contributes and publishes news editorial to http://www.all-motorcycle-helmets.com.
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