Media Alert - Each State To Receive Rating Based On Progress In Adopting 14 Basic Highway Safety Laws

Media Alert CONTACT: Debra Kubecka, 202-408-1711 or 443-226-4744
Wednesday, December 15, 2004 or Bill Bronrott, 301-652-6016 or 202-270-4415


2nd Annual Roadmap Report To Give States A Catalyst For Action in 2005

Harris Poll Shows Strong Public Support For State Action



Washington, D.C., December 16, 2004. Advocates released its 2nd annual highway safety report, 2005 Roadmap to State Highway Safety Laws-Roadwork Ahead, the Unfinished Safety Agenda, that rates each state and D.C. on adoption of basic highway safety laws. The Report shows that seven states are dangerously lagging behind and 30 have serious gaps in adoption of Advocates' recommended basic highway safety laws. Only 13 states and D.C. have made significant progress in advancing basic highway safety laws. These laws include primary enforcement of seat belt laws, all-rider motorcycle helmet laws, child booster seat laws, teen driving laws, and impaired driving laws. A Lou Harris poll, released along with the Roadmap Report, shows strong public support for adoption of state laws that improve overall highway safety.

Judie Stone, president of Advocates said, "This past year we saw little improvement made by the states since our last Report in adopting highway safety laws that help reduce the number of deaths and injuries on our roadways. One state adopted a primary enforcement seat belt law in 2004, leaving 29 states still without this basic law. We hope this report will serve as a 'call to action' for states to accelerate adoption of these essential safety laws."

"Amidst the confusion of grief, one thing stands clear: teenage driving laws need to protect
teenagers." It's a bit on the obvious side, but I think it implies that current policy is not doing enough to safeguard our families," said Veronica Betancourt, sister of Alicia Betancourt, 16, who died as a passenger in a vehicle driven by a teenage in September of this year in Montgomery County, Maryland.

The State Roadmap Report Breakdown, along with Harris Poll Results:

29 states do not have primary enforcement seat belt laws for adults. Advocates recommends that all states adopt primary enforcement of seat belt laws and that federal legislation may be needed to accelerate the progress, just as it did for the 21 drinking age and for .08 percent blood alcohol concentration (BAC). In 2003, 56 percent of people who died in motor vehicle crashes were unbelted. When states pass primary enforcement seat belt laws, seat belt use increases by 10 to 15 percentage points. Tennessee was the only state in 2004 to pass a primary enforcement law. A sound majority of 80 percent said that seat belt enforcement should be treated like any other traffic safety law, meaning a police officer should be allowed to ticket motorists just for not wearing their seat belts.

30 states do not have all-rider motorcycle helmet laws. Numerous studies have that all-rider helmet laws increase helmet use to nearly 100 percent, while states without this law have use rates below 50 percent. States that have repealed their all-rider laws have seen a significant increase in deaths. Louisiana reinstated its all-rider helmet law in 2004 after seeing a 100 percent increase in motorcycle rider deaths since it repealed its law in 1999. According to the Harris Poll, 82 percent of Americans support all-rider helmet laws.

42 states do not have Advocates' recommended optimal booster seat law protection for children ages 4 to 8. A recent National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) report showed that 78 percent of children in this age group are inappropriately restrained, and the risks of injury from not being in a booster seat increase dramatically. While a total of 28 states and D.C. have booster seat laws, only eight states have Advocates' recommended optimal law covering children 4 to 8. In 2004, only six states passed booster seat laws and only two of those were the recommended optimal law. Again, the Harris poll showed strong public support of booster seat laws-84 percent feel that all states should adopt booster seat laws for children ages 4 to 8.

No state has an Advocates' recommended optimal teen Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) program. Many states are missing key provisions of Advocates' optimal GDL program, either by having a weak provision or by not having any law. In fact, only six new GDL laws were passed this past year by four states. A Harris poll conducted for Advocates in 2001 showed 92 percent supported a six-month holding period, 95 percent supported at least 30 to 50 hours of supervised driving, and 74 percent supported passenger and nighttime driving restrictions.

States were rated on seven basic impaired driving laws. This past year, all 50 states came into compliance with federal law for .08 percent blood alcohol concentration (BAC) when 5 states passed their .08 percent BAC laws. However, only 8 states adopted a total of 9 of the basic impaired driving laws recommended by Advocates. According to the Harris Poll, 87 percent believe that more attention should be given to drunk driving. In 2003, 40 percent of deaths on our highways involved drunk driving.

"As a former emergency department physician, I have witnessed firsthand the emotional toll of vehicle crashes on individuals and families, said Georges C. Benjamin, MD, FACP, executive director of the American Public Health Association and board member of Advocates. Motor vehicle trauma is one of the nation's foremost preventable public health problems, and we must support measures that protect drivers, passengers and pedestrians, such as laws requiring seat belt use, This report holds states accountable for enacting laws that promote safety and prevent tragedy on our nation's highways and roadways,"

With the majority of state legislatures opening their 2005 sessions in January, Advocates sent the report to the nation's Governors and urged them to accelerate adoption of these basic highway safety laws to ensure that all 14 laws are uniformly in effect across the nation.

"We have proven vaccines in the form of tougher and better highway safety laws, said Dale Hammond, President and COO, Kemper Auto & Home Group, Inc. (A Unitrin Company) and Insurance Co-Chair of Advocates. These laws not only save lives, but can help reduce the horrific costs associated with more than 6 million motor vehicle crashes that occurred this past year, with a price tag of more than $230 billion a year."

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for Americans ages 2 to 33. In 2003 alone, 6.3 million traffic crashes resulted in 42,653 deaths and 3 million injuries.

Advocates' report divides the 14 model laws into four issue categories. In each category, states are given one of three ratings based on how many optimal laws they have: Green (Good); Yellow (Caution); and Red (Danger). Placement in one of the three sections was based solely on whether or not a state has adopted a law as defined in the report, and not on any evaluation of a state's highway safety education-enforcement program or on fatality rates. An overall rating was given The four issue sections and corresponding laws are:

1. Adult Occupant Protection (2 laws): Primary enforcement seat belt law and all-rider motorcycle helmet law.
2. Child Passenger Safety (1 law): Child booster seat law for ages 4 to 8.
3. Teen Driving -- Optimal Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) Program Provisions (4 laws):
Learner's Stage: 6-Month Holding Period and 30-50 Hours Supervised Driving
Intermediate Stage: Nighttime Driving Restriction and Passenger Restriction
4. Impaired Driving (7 laws): Repeat offender, open container, high BAC, mandatory BAC testing for drivers killed in fatal crashes, mandatory BAC testing for drivers who survive fatal crashes, sobriety checkpoints, and child endangerment laws.


Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates), an alliance of consumer, health and safety groups and insurance companies and agents working together to make America's roads safer, is actively involved at the federal and state levels to reduce the terrible tragedy of crashes to families across the nation.

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