Florida Lags In Highway Safety, Group Says

The Tampa Tribune

Florida Lags In Highway Safety, Group Says

Published: January 12, 2009

A highway safety group says Florida has done better when it comes to passing highway safety laws but lags in key areas.

In a report released today, the Washington, D.C.-based Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety said the Sunshine State achieved a 9 out of possible 15, a half-point improvement from last year, and said the number of highway deaths in the state improved slightly between 2006 and 2007.

Florida got higher marks in the study largely because the group recognized the state's ignition-interlock program to prevent drunken drivers from starting their cars unless they breathe into an alcohol-detection device.

The law doesn't apply to first-time offenders, so Florida only got half-credit.

The 55-page report, called the Roadmap Report, casts Florida as a "yellow state," along with 30 others, meaning the state has room to improve. The ratings of poorest to best overall safety laws are based on red, yellow and green.

Fifteen states and Washington, D.C., were given green ratings for having adequate driver protections.

Four states received red designations – Arkansas, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming.

Florida could have achieved a green had it passed a primary seat-belt law, a mandatory motorcycle helmet law or a booster seat law, among others, the group said. In Florida, seat-belt laws can be enforced only if a police officer pulls over a violator for a different violation, such as speeding.

Florida had fewer highway fatalities in 2007 than 2006, the report noted. Road deaths declined by 160, to 3,214 in 2007. The group said it expects fatalities to decline again in 2008 but said that might be because of the economy with people driving fewer miles.

The Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety is a coalition of insurance, consumer, health, safety and law enforcement organizations.

Reporter Rich Shopes can be reached at rshopes@tampatrib.com or (813) 259-7633.

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