Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety

All media and reporters on deadline, please contact us at (202) 408-1711
 
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACTS:Bill Bronrott
January 8, 2007 202-270-4415 or 301-896-0003 (bbcomm@aol.com)
   
  202-408-1711 or 202-374-2960 (jgunderson@saferoads.org)

New Study Finds Mounting Deaths and Minimal Progress as
Key Highway Safety Laws Hit Roadblocks in Most State Capitals

Governors, State Legislatures Urged to Enact 15 Essential Laws in 2007 to Increase Seat Belt, Child Booster Seat and Motorcycle Helmet Use While Curbing Drunk Driving and
Improving Teen Driver Safety

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Monday, January 8, 2007) - Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates) today released its fourth annual highway safety report, the "2007 Roadmap to State Highway Safety Laws," that rates each state and the District of Columbia on their adoption of 15 proven-effective laws to significantly reduce death and injury on the nation's roads.

The release of the study coincides with every state legislature opening their 2007 sessions this month, and as motor vehicle crashes continue to be the number one killer of Americans ages 4 to 34.

Advocates found that no state has adopted all 15 traffic safety measures which cover five major areas of safety behavior: seat belt use, motorcycle helmet use, child booster seat use, teen driving, and impaired driving.

An analysis of the extent to which the 50 states and D.C. adopted these 15 laws found nearly 300 gaps nationwide at the start of 2006, yet only 22 of these state traffic safety loopholes were closed by the end of the year.

This comes at a time when 43,443 people died in traffic crashes in 2005, which was the highest number in a single year since 1990 when 44,599 people died. The overall traffic fatality rate was up for the first time in 20 years as well. Another 2.7 million motorists were injured in crashes. The economic costs resulting from motor vehicle crashes exceed $230 billion annually, which is the equivalent of a yearly "crash tax" of $792 on every American.

"As long as this number one killer of young people has been a national public health epidemic, one would think that proven solutions would be firmly in place to stem the annual mortality tide," said Advocates president Judith Lee Stone. "But they are not, and public and government outrage seems muted given the scale of loss to our society."

The "2007 Roadmap to State Highway Safety Laws" report divided the 15 model laws into four issue categories:

Occupant Protection (2 laws) - A primary enforcement seat belt law and an all-rider motorcycle helmet law.

Child Passenger Safety (1 law) - A child booster seat law from ages 4 to 8.

Optimal Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) Program (5 laws) - A six-month "holding period" during the learner's permit phase; a minimum 30-50 hours of supervised driving during the learner's permit period; a nighttime driving restriction from at least 10:00pm to 5:00am during the provisional or intermediate stage; a restriction of no more than one non-family teen passenger during the provisional or intermediate stage; and new to this year's criteria is a total prohibition on cell phone use by drivers with learner's permits or provisional licenses, except in the case of calling 911 in an emergency.

Impaired Driving (7 laws) - Repeat offender penalties, open container ban, enhanced penalties against high blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) drivers, mandatory BAC testing for drivers killed in crashes, mandatory BAC testing for drivers who survive crashes in which another motorist was killed, state authorization of sobriety checkpoints, and penalties against impaired drivers transporting children (child endangerment laws).

In each category, states were given one of three ratings based on how many optimal laws they have: Green (Good); Yellow (Caution - state needs improvement); and Red (Danger - state falls dangerously behind). 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. Partial credit was given to states with child booster seat laws or teen driving laws that met elements of Advocates' optimal definition.

"Last year can best be summed up as mounting deaths and minimal progress," said Advocates vice president Jacqueline Gillan. "In 1967, New York was the first state to pass an all-rider motorcycle helmet law. Forty years later, only 20 states and D.C. have adopted this lifesaving law despite the dramatic, deadly and costly rise in motorcyclist deaths over the past decade when we saw several states repeal their helmet laws."

The overall ratings for the four issue categories were:

GREEN STATES (16 plus DC): Alabama, California, Delaware (new - upgraded from yellow), District of Columbia, Georgia, Hawaii (new - upgraded from yellow), Illinois, Kentucky (new - upgraded from yellow), Louisiana, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Washington.

Within the "green" category, Advocates identified the "BEST PERFORMANCE STATES" which were historically highly ranked states that were credited with passing at least two additional new laws in 2006. Those were: Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, and Kentucky.

Among the "green" states, Advocates identified those that have stagnated and enacted little or no new legislation over the past four years. These "LIGHT GREEN STATES" were: California, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, and Washington.

YELLOW STATES (31): Alaska (new - upgraded from red), Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, Indiana (new - downgraded from green), Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico (new - downgraded from green), North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma (new - downgraded from green), Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

RED STATES (3): Arkansas, South Dakota and Wyoming.

A new category for "WORST PERFORMING STATES" was created this year to identify the historically lowest rated states that have made little to no legislative progress in recent years. These were: Arizona, Arkansas, South Dakota, and Wyoming.

"Getting adults, teens, and children to buckle up and keeping impaired drivers off the road are two of the biggest ways to reduce highway fatalities," said Deborah Hersman, board member of the National Transportation Safety Board. "We know that more people buckle up when states have strong seat belt laws that authorize primary enforcement and apply to all vehicle seating positions. We know that more children are buckled up when the driver is buckled up, and we know that seat belts are the best defense against impaired drivers," said Hersman. "At the top of NTSB's Most Wanted safety improvements are the laws recommended by Advocates to address impaired driving, teen driving, child occupant protection, and primary enforcement seat belt use."

The 2007 report found that:

  • 25 states still need a primary enforcement seat belt law. Hawaii, Kentucky and Mississippi were the only states to enact such a law in 2006, bringing the total to 25 states plus the District of Columbia. Both houses of the Massachusetts legislature passed this legislation last year, but then reversed itself in a political trade by legislative leaders on an unrelated issue. Nearly 55 percent of people killed in motor vehicle crashes are unbelted. Studies show that a state with a primary seat belt law has use rates 10 to 15 percentage points higher than in states with only secondary enforcement where you can only be ticketed for not buckling up if observed committing another traffic violation.

Wayne E. Moore, M.D., is the Meharry-State Farm Alliance's lead medical professional who is urging states to pass primary seat belt laws as "a reasonable public policy solution to a public health crisis claiming the lives and limbs of millions of American motorists." Dr. Moore is the chief of emergency medicine at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, which is the oldest historically black institution educating health professionals in the nation. The college has done extensive studies showing that seat belt use is lower among African-Americans and other minorities.

"This new report is an eye-opener for state legislatures about what is lacking in terms of highway safety laws, and it is an action blueprint for solutions," Dr. Moore said. "Some say that primary enforcement seat belt laws would infringe on personal rights and freedom, but this is a public health epidemic not unlike an outbreak of smallpox or TB. It would be unconscionable to have proven vaccine to inoculate children and adults against a ravaging disease and not use it. The disease we speak of today is lack of seat belt use in American today." Dr. Moore pointed out that "100 percent seat belt use among African Americans could prevent 1,300 deaths and 26,000 injuries each year."

  • 30 states still need an all-rider motorcycle helmet law. These include four states - Colorado, Illinois, Iowa and New Hampshire - that have no helmet law at all, and 26 other states with helmet laws requiring only younger riders to wear them. Motorcyclist deaths have more than doubled since 1997, yet no state adopted an all-rider helmet law in 2006. Numerous state legislatures considered repealing their helmet laws last year. States that have repealed their all-rider laws have seen significant increases in deaths. Today, only 20 states and D.C. require all motorcycle riders to wear a helmet.

"Death rates from head injuries are twice as high among motorcyclists in states without all-rider helmet laws," said Pennsylvania Representative Dan Frankel (District 23, Pittsburgh), who opposed the repeal of his state's all-rider motorcycle helmet law in 2003. "In the year after our repeal, the number of motorcycle crash patients admitted to state trauma centers with head injuries increased 48 percent and has increased by double-digits every year since. This should be no surprise as other states gambling with repeal have experienced the same tragic and costly increases. We need to get our law back because, if you don't die in the crash, these debilitating brain injuries cost taxpayers a lot of money to rehabilitate and care for head-injured cyclists at state expense."

Representative Frankel added that "if any other public health epidemic demonstrated a doubling of deaths in less than a decade, our nation would not stand for it. All the experts, all the resources would be organized to fight the disease, to get to the root of it. We already know one major root cause of this epidemic, and we need every state to have an all-rider motorcycle helmet law in place, so use of helmets can be easily enforced and dramatic decreases in brain injuries and deaths will be realized."

  • 35 states still need an optimal booster seat law to cover all children ages 4 to 8. Today, 23 states have a booster seat law that partially covers children up to age 8, and 12 other states have yet to adopt any booster seat law. In 2006, Hawaii, Kansas, Missouri, and Wisconsin adopted the optimal law while Alabama enacted a law covering children only up to age five. Today, 15 states and D.C. have an optimal booster seat law.
  • 49 states and D.C. lack an optimal Graduated Drivers Licensing (GDL) program. Only one state - Delaware - has enacted all five elements of Advocates' comprehensive GDL.
  • 37 states and D.C. have not passed all seven basic impaired driving laws. In 2006, only two impaired driving laws recommended by Advocates were enacted in the U.S. when Hawaii and Nebraska passed High BAC legislation toughening penalties against drunk drivers twice or more the .08 BAC limit. Today, only 13 states have adopted all seven optimal anti-drunk driving laws - Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Carolina, and Utah.

"This report inserts new details into a story that we, sadly, already know: our roads are needlessly unsafe," U.S. Senator Frank R. Lautenberg said. "I've spent my career trying to make our highways safer by authoring laws such as the raising the minimum drinking age to 21 and lowering the legal blood alcohol limit to .08. In the new Congress, I will work to make sure that the federal government does more to prevent the deaths of tens of thousands of Americans on our highways each year." Senator Lautenberg is a member of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on transportation, and serves on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee which has jurisdiction over transportation safety issues.

With every state legislature opening their 2007 sessions this month, Advocates is sending this new report to the nation's governors to urge them to accelerate adoption of these basic highway safety laws to ensure that all 15 measures are uniformly in effect across the nation.

"This is a timely opportunity to educate every Governor and state legislator on where the deadly gaps are in their highway safety laws and to urge them to close these lethal loopholes this year," said Advocates president Stone.

The complete "2007 Roadmap to State Highway Safety Laws" report can be found on the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety website: www.saferoads.org. Advocates is a coalition of insurance, consumer, health, safety and law enforcement organizations that work together to advance state and national highway and vehicle safety policies.


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Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety is a coalition of consumer, health, safety and insurance companies working together to advance highway and auto safety.

Click Here To View Report


01/08/2007 - 11:08
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Robert Yule
February 23, 2007 (202) 588-7703

Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety - Public Citizen - Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH) - Parents Against Tired Truckers (P.A.T.T.)



Administration Announces Plan Despite Serious Safety Problems

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Auto safety groups today sent a letter to the Democratic and Republican leaders of key committees urging oversight hearings following the U.S. Department of Transportation's (DOT) announcement that it will open the southern U.S. border to 100 long-haul, interstate trucking companies from Mexico. In 2001, safety groups supported bi-partisan legislation (Public Law 107-87, December 18, 2001) adopted in the U.S. House and U.S. Senate that put the brakes on opening the border until basic safety measures and procedures were in place.

Among the benchmarks are requirements for safety audits at Mexican trucking company places of business to determine each motor carrier's safety management quality before awarding operating authority, the elimination of inaccurate data about Mexican-domiciled trucks and drivers provided to U.S. authorities, adequate border safety inspection facilities and certified random drug and alcohol testing already required of U.S. truck drivers. In a 2005 report, the U.S. DOT Inspector General (IG) found that many of those benchmarks had not been met. Another IG report is due to be issued in about two months.

"Congress had to step in more than five years ago and stop the administration from opening the border until an adequate level of safety was achieved," said Jacqueline Gillan, vice-president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates). "Now Congress needs to step in again. There is an urgent need for oversight hearings on safety and security issues before the DOT rushes to open the southern border."

Joan Claybrook, president of Public Citizen, stressed that several current facts about Mexican-domiciled trucks entering the United States are still highly disturbing and show that the border is not ready for a surge in these long-haul trucks traveling freely throughout the country.

"The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) admits that many states have not authorized law enforcement to stop trucks without legal registration and operating authority from hauling their cargo," said Claybrook. "Yet FMCSA has documented that one in five short-haul trucks currently crossing the border is being placed out of service because of equipment defects."

Other facts also raise alarms about the consequences of Mexican-domiciled trucks and drivers traveling throughout the United States. "Mexican truck drivers are frequently attempting to cross into the U.S. border zone without valid driver licenses or even with no licenses," said Gerald Donaldson, senior research director for Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety. "In fact, the latest figures from FMCSA show that almost one in four Mexican drivers does not even have a Mexican commercial driver license when trying to cross into the United States."

FMCSA to date has a poor record of investigating Mexican truck safety. The agency's safety Compliance Reviews of Mexican-domiciled trucks coming across the southern border, for example, have plunged from 268 in 2003 to 236 in 2004, and down to only 106 in 2005.

Donaldson also emphasized that there are other serious, chronic safety issues. "When Mexican-domiciled trucks haul hazardous materials, almost one in four trucks uses prohibited signs on its rigs that don't say what kind of dangerous cargo is on board," he said.

In addition, driver fatigue, a widespread industry problem that contributes to truck-related crashes, is a major safety concern for truck drivers entering the United States. "I am deeply troubled that DOT is looking the other way on the problem of fatigued and sleep-deprived Mexican truck drivers," said John Lannen, the executive director of the Truck Safety Coalition, an umbrella group representing Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH) and Parents Against Tired Truckers (P.A.T.T.). "The U.S. DOT knows that more than 15 percent of Mexican truck drivers entering the United States don't even have the paper logbooks that are currently required to show the amount of working, driving and rest time. We have no proof that Mexican drivers will not continue to flout U.S. limits on driving time and fail to keep proper time records," he stressed.

"The problem of adequate enforcement of hours of service rules is compounded by a weak and ineffective proposed rule recently issued by FMCSA," added Claybrook. "The agency has decided not to mandate Electronic On-Board Recorders (EOBRs) for all big trucks to prove how many hours they are on the road and assist police in enforcing the laws that restrict driving time. For trucks crossing the border, this is a particular problem because drivers could have nearly exhausted their hours of service limits by the time they enter the United States, and officials won't be able to enforce any limits."

Safety organizations have tried for months to determine what plans were being made by the administration to open the southern border to long-haul, Mexican-domiciled trucks. A Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request was filed with FMCSA on October 17, 2006. The law requires the agency to provide the documents within 20 business days but the agency has not provided any records in more than three and a half months.

"Withholding agency records on this issue that should be made public underscores the need for oversight hearings in Congress," said Gillan.

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02/23/2007 - 11:11
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Jackie Gillan
March 22, 2007 (202) 408-1711

Senate Committee Puts the Brakes on Dangerous Trucks from Mexico

Statement of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates) Commending Adoption by the Senate Appropriations Committee of an Amendment to Ensure that the U.S. DOT Complies with Federal Safety Laws Before Opening the Southern Border to
Mexico-domiciled Trucks

The Senate Committee on Appropriations today struck a major blow for the safety of all Americans on our streets and highways by reining in an irresponsible proposal recently announced by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to implement a so-called "demonstration program" to open the U.S. southern border to long-haul trucks from Mexico without any safeguards. An amendment adopted in the Senate Committee by voice vote allows DOT to conduct a formal pilot program allowing Mexico-domiciled carriers into the United States only if they comply with current federal safety laws governing how pilot programs are conducted and other safety measures enacted with bi-partisan support in 2001. The amendment also ensures that long-haul Mexican trucks will not have access to United States highways beyond the current commercial zones until American trucking firms have the opportunity for comparable and simultaneous access throughout Mexico.

"The Members of the Senate Appropriations Committee, particularly Senators Patty Murray (D-WA), Byron L. Dorgan (D-ND) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) are to be commended for their leadership and the action the Committee took today," stressed Jacqueline Gillan, vice president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety. "The U.S. DOT is poised to open the southern border to trucks from Mexico in less than two months while ignoring dangerous and unsafe problems that still exist. Today's adoption of the amendment will put the brakes on an ill-conceived and ill-advised proposal that threatens the safety of all Americans. Without this quick response to protect the public from a careless and dangerous decision by DOT to sidestep federal safety laws, all of us traveling our roads would be threatened with even greater loss of life and severe injuries. Every year more than 5,000 people die and thousands more are seriously injured in truck crashes. It would be irresponsible to add to that death and injury toll by opening the border prematurely," added Gillan.

Gerald Donaldson, senior research director of Advocates, emphasized that the Senate amendment would require DOT to adhere to important legal standards on how to conduct a scientific study and what steps must be taken to protect the safety of the public if the pilot program goes forward. "DOT tried to ignore federal requirements to conduct a scientifically credible pilot program and also attempted to avoid any public evaluation of this dangerous proposal. This action by the Senate Committee compels DOT to obey federal safety laws for conducting studies," he said.

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Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety is an alliance of consumer, health and safety groups and insurance companies and agents working together to make America's roads safer. For more information, please visit www.saferoads.org.


03/22/2007 - 11:33
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Jeremy Gunderson
 April 2, 2007 (202) 408-1711

Advocates Urges States to Adopt Highway Safety Legislation
During National Public Health Week

Legislatures Have Opportunity To Reduce
The Needless 43,443 Annual Auto Fatalities on America's Roads

 

"As of April 1st, ten state legislatures have already closed shop for the year, and another dozen legislatures will adjourn by the end of month, leaving missed opportunities on the table and failing to enact any significant highway safety laws in 2007," said Advocates President Judith Stone. "Motor vehicle crashes still represent a major public health epidemic and are the leading cause of death for people ages 3 to 33."

This comes at a time when 43,443 people died in traffic crashes in 2005 (the latest data available), which was the highest number in a single year since 1990 when 44,599 people died. The overall traffic fatality rate was up for the first time in 20 years as well. Another 2.7 million motorists were injured in crashes. The economic costs resulting from motor vehicle crashes exceed $230 billion annually, which is the equivalent toa yearly "crash tax" of $792 on every American.

 

"It's not too late for some states to act on these lifesaving measures," said Stone. "Proven solutions in the form of effective laws are in your legislative toolboxes. Don't go home without fixing the problem."


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Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety is an alliance of consumer, health and safety groups and insurance companies and agents working together to make America's roads safer. For more information, please visit www.saferoads.org.


04/02/2007 - 11:37
                  OPENING
                                     THE BORDER
                                                           SHUTTING OUT
                                               SAFETY

In February 2007, the administration announced plans to conduct a “pilot program” allowing up to 1,000 Mexico-domiciled trucks to travel beyond the current border zones. In 2001, Congress had passed legislation that put a premium on upgrading inspection facilities, computer databases and other safety-related requirements before opening the southern border for long-haul trucks. The Bush administration has still not finished implementing the safety requirements in that law, but decided this year to rush ahead with the pilot program in an attempt to open the border.

CLICK HERE FOR LATEST UPDATE (SEPTEMBER 11, 2007)


Analysis of Pilot Program, Sec. 6901 Compliance

Pilot Program Report Card

Mexican Border and DOT Pilot Program Chronology

Public Opinion Poll Results

Hearings in the U.S. House and Senate, featuring testimony from Advocates and Public Citizen, identified serious safety problems with the program. On May 24, Congress approved provisions in a supplemental Iraq War funding bill to ensure that any pilot program to allow Mexico-domiciled trucks full access to the nation’s highways would not circumvent safety standards or congressional oversight. The provisions ordered the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), which is responsible for implementing the administration’s cross-border pilot program, to obey a number of requirements that the agency is still ignoring.

These provisions, signed into law by the president, require: the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to follow all applicable rules and regulations concerning the formulation of pilot programs and crossborder
trucking; Mexico-based trucking companies and trucks to comply with all applicable U.S. laws; and the administration to ensure that the operation of these trucks within the United States would not have a negative
impact on safety.

The groups accused the administration of brazenly pressing forward without meeting many of the safety provisions directed by Congress. Less than three weeks after the legislation was signed into law, FMCSA published a notice in the Federal Register on June 8 that in effect declared that the agency had met all of the congressionally mandated safety requirements to open the southern border.

The report released in June 2007, however, identified every provision of law that FMCSA has failed to comply with, including: failure to provide sufficient opportunity for public notice and comments; failure to provide the
public with information about the pilot project; failure to comply with the requirements of §350 of the FY2002 DOT Appropriations Act on the safety of cross-border trucking; failure to comply with requirements of the pilot program law to test innovative approaches and alternative regulations under 49 USC §31315(c); failure of FMCSA to keep its promise to check every truck every time for compliance; and failure to establish criteria that
are subject to monitoring during the pilot program.

(UPDATE) Last night, September 11, the United States Senate adopted by a wide, strong and bipartisan vote of 75 yeas to 23 nays an important amendment to the FY2008 U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) spending bill (H.R. 3074) that prohibits the use of any funds to carry out the cross-border Mexican-domiciled truck pilot program. The amendment was sponsored by Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND) and Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA). Identical language, with bi-partisan support, was included in the House version of the DOT funding bill in July. Now the bill goes to conference to reconcile other differences in the House and Senate bills. The Administration strongly opposes the amendment and will work to strip it from the final conference bill.

A weak amendment offered by Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) to counter the Dorgan/Specter amendment was defeated by 69 nays to 29 yeas.

Senate Appropriations Amendment Fact Sheet - September 7, 2007

Oppose the Cornyn Amendment to H.R. 3074

Mexican Border and DOT Pilot Program Chronology

For more information on this issue, please contact us at (202) 408-1711


06/20/2007 - 11:58

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