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Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety Report on State Progress

Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates) recently released their 2013 Roadmap of State Highway Safety Laws which is its 10th annual report card. It grades all 50 states and the District of Columbia on the performance of 15 basic traffic laws. The report this year focused on new incentive grants which are to be used to encourage states to toughen teen licensing and distracted driving laws. The grants will also be used to affect ignition interlock laws and occupant protection programs.

Jacqueline Gillan, president of Advocates said at a new conference, “The traffic safety progress we’ve made since 2005 is at risk of being undone. Several states have been moving backwards and most states are not moving at all to enact lifesaving laws.  Last year only 10 state highway safety laws were enacted, in contrast to 16 laws passed in 2011 and 22 laws passed in 2010.  Now is the time for states to act and get the ‘triple bonus’ of preventing deaths, saving taxpayer dollars, and reaping additional federal dollars available from the MAP-21 grant program.  Every state legislature is in session this year and there is no excuse for inaction by Governors and elected leaders.”

Preliminary data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows the largest increase in traffic fatalities since 1975. There has been a 7.1 percent increase in auto accident deaths during the first nine months of 2012 when compared to the same time period in 2011. In an average year roughly 33,000 people are killed and 2 million are injured. The cost of auto accidents is estimated at $230 billion a year which equates to roughly $750 per person in the United States.

Dr. Adewale Troutman, President, American Public Health Association said in a press release that “In addition to the loss of life and debilitating injuries, there are many other health impacts of traffic crashes, such as costs of medical care and lost work days and productivity. These ‘hidden’ health care costs of transportation-related injuries are at an unnecessary and unacceptable level.  They are putting undue financial burdens on our families and on our state and federal budgets, and ultimately on taxpayers.”

The report looked at 15 highway safety laws including seat belt, booster seat and motorcycle helmet measures in addition to the laws effecting teens and texting.

States were given one of three ratings based on the effectiveness of the 15 laws. Rankings were Green (Good), Yellow (Caution – state needs improvement), and Red (Danger – state falls dangerously behind).

The best states according to the rankings were: New York, District of Columbia, Illinois, Kansas, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Delaware, Georgia, Rhode Island and Washington.

The worst ranked states were: South Dakota, Mississippi, Arizona, Montana, Nebraska, Wyoming, Iowa, Florida, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Carolina and Texas.

During 2012 a total of 10 states enacted safety laws which were recommended by Advocates’.

  • Arizona – Booster Seats – children ages 4 through 7
  • Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin – Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) for teen drivers
  • Missouri, Virginia and Mississippi – Impaired Driving
  • Alabama, Idaho and West Virginia – All-Driver Text Messaging Restriction

The report found there is still a lot of work to do. A total of 316 new laws need to be passed in all states and D.C. to fully meet the recommendations by Advocates’.