Maryland, D.C. Get Green Lights for Auto Safety


Maryland, D.C. Get Green Lights for Auto Safety

Monday, January 19, 2009; HE02

In Maryland and the District, you can be ticketed if you don't buckle up, even if you haven't committed any other traffic violations. It's called a primary enforcement seat belt law. In a report released last week by Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, both jurisdictions ranked high in terms of number of road safety laws passed.

Each year, Advocates, a coalition of consumer, health and safety groups and insurance companies, analyzes the types and number of road safety laws in each state. It identifies 15 "optimal" laws that cover such issues as blood alcohol levels and the licensing of teen drivers.

"Green" jurisdictions (15 states, including Maryland, plus the District) have enacted the most road safety laws. "Red" states (North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming and Arkansas) have enacted the fewest, and "yellow" ones fall in between. Virginia is a yellow state.

In Virginia, police can ticket you for not wearing a seat belt only if they have stopped you for some other violation (so-called secondary enforcement).

"We won't allow a state to be green unless they have [a primary enforcement law,]" said Judith Stone, president of Advocates. In Virginia, "it's the personal freedom issue, the feeling they don't need to be told what to do," Stone said.

Annually, more than 41,000 people are killed in traffic accidents. Stone said that Advocates hopes the cost of traffic accidents might lead some legislatures to strengthen their safety laws. Not only do these laws save lives, Stone said, but they also save billions of dollars in medical and emergency response expenditures, insurance, property damage and other costs.

"This is a freebie," Stone said.



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