Debra Kubecka Annand
Thursday, December 16, 2004
RECORD NUMBER OF FAMILIES TAKE TO THE HIGHWAYS THIS HOLIDAY SEASON
NEW REPORT SHOWS SHOCKING DISPARITY AMONG STATES IN
BASIC HIGHWAY SAFETY LAWS
Mediocre Ratings in 2nd Annual Roadmap Is a Call to Action
Harris Poll Shows Strong Public Support For State Action Now
D.C. Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (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 the District of Columbia (DC) on adoption
of 14 basic highway safety laws. Not one state or DC has all 14
basic highway safety laws. In the report, only 13 states-Alabama,
California, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, New Jersey,
New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Tennessee, Washington-and
DC got the highest rating for having made progress in advancing
key laws to curb drunk driving, encourage seat belt and motorcycle
helmet use, require booster seats for young children and protect
new teen drivers. Seven states are dangerously lagging behind,
with less than half of the 14 basic highway safety laws. Alaska,
Arkansas, Montana, Rhode Island, South Dakota, West Virginia,
and Wyoming were given the lowest rating in the report. And the
other 30 states have serious gaps in adoption of Advocates' recommended
basic highway safety laws. Despite the slow progress of most states,
a Lou Harris poll, released along with the Roadmap Report, shows
strong public support for adoption of state laws that improve
overall highway safety.
Stone, president of Advocates said, "In 2004, we saw little
improvement made among the states in adopting highway safety laws
that reduce the number of deaths and injuries. Only one state
adopted a primary enforcement seat belt law this year. At this
rate it will be 2033 before every state protects their citizens
with an effective seat belt law. Equally disturbing is that too
many teens are dying in crashes and too few states have adequate
laws to protect them. Governors and state legislators should use
this report as a 'call to action' and quit delaying legislative
adoption. We need less hand wringing and more bill signings."
the confusion of grief, one thing stands clear, effective teenage
driving laws need to be passed to protect teenagers," said
Veronica Betancourt, sister of Alicia Betancourt, 16, who died
as a passenger in a vehicle driven by a teenager in September
of this year in Montgomery County, Maryland. "It's a bit
on the obvious side, but I think current laws are not doing enough
to safeguard our families."
summary of the State Roadmap Report and Lou Harris Poll results
states do not have primary enforcement seat belt laws for adults.
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. The Harris
poll shows 80 percent of Americans say 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.
states still need all-rider motorcycle helmet laws. Louisiana
reinstated its all-rider helmet law in 2004 after experiencing
a 100 percent increase in motorcycle rider deaths since it repealed
its law in 1999. Numerous states considered repealing existing
all-rider helmet laws in 2004. According to the Harris Poll, 82
percent of Americans support all-rider helmet laws.
states need Advocates' recommended optimal booster seat law protection
for children ages 4 to 8. While a total of 28 states and D.C.
have booster seat laws, only eight states meet Advocates' criteria
and protect children ages 4 to 8-most cover only to age 6 or 7.
In 2004, six states passed booster seat laws with only two including
children up to age 8. The Harris poll showed 84% of the public
support state enactment of booster seat laws for children ages
4 to 8.
state meets Advocates' recommended optimal teen Graduated Driver
Licensing (GDL) program with four key provisions, including 30-50
hours of supervisions and restrictions on the number of teen passengers.
Only six new GDL laws were adopted in four states in 2004.
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 acted on some
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 highway deaths
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. "Each year nearly 43,000
people die on our highways and 3 million more are injured. By
any measure this is a public health epidemic and mostly preventable.
It is time for Governors and state legislators to make enactment
of these laws a priority."
most state legislatures convening in January, Advocates wrote
to every Governor with a link to the report and urged each of
them to make highway safety legislation a top priority.
year motor vehicle crashes cost society more than $230 billion,
according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration,
imposing a "crash tax" of $792 on every man, woman and
child. "One of the most effective strategies in holding down
insurance costs is loss prevention," said Dale Hammond, President
and COO, Kemper Auto & Home Group, Inc. (A Unitrin Company)
and Insurance Co-Chair of Advocates. "Highway safety laws
that curb drunk driving, require seat belt and motorcycle helmet
use, and protect teen drivers will save lives and save taxpayer
report divides the 14 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
Gillis, Director of Public Affairs for the Consumer Federation
of America said, "The Lou Harris poll shows once again that
the public is ahead of elected leaders in supporting highway safety
measures. Public support is strong but political will is weak."
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 and vehicles safer. Advocates encourages
the adoption of federal and state laws, policies and programs
that we know will prevent death and disabling injuries.
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