States Slip In Highway Safety Ratings


Published 1/12/2010 
Twelve states saw their highway safety ratings slip in the 2010 Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety annual report card as some of the organization’s model laws were updated for this year.
Advocates said its 15 model laws—used to develop the report card and classify states as green, yellow, or red depending on how many of the model laws are adopted—includes new measures such as an all-driver text messaging ban.
Their findings drew immediate support from the insurance community. The American Insurance Association offered its support to the changes Advocates made to the report card, particularly adding a model law banning texting while driving.
David Snyder, vice president, associate general counsel and director of public policy for AIA, said in a statement, “Recent studies have equated driving and texting to driving while severely impaired by alcohol, or worse. Experience with other safety issues demonstrates that legislation is important because it serves as the anchor for all related efforts to modify unsafe driving behavior, including public education and technology.”
The addition of new model laws, Advocates said, accounted for some states slipping from green to yellow and yellow to red.
Advocates President Judith Stone said in a statement: “Our goal this year in adjusting the 15 model laws that we evaluate was not to make it harder for states to earn the green rating. Rather, our intent was to highlight the documented need for more states to adopt these highly effective lifesaving laws aimed at high-risk behaviors.”
Other new model laws include stringent guidelines for ignition interlock devices for drunk drivers, and two additional restrictions for teen drivers in “graduated driver licensing” (GDL) programs—setting the minimum age for a learner’s permit at 16 and requiring an applicant for an unrestricted license to be 18.
States that slipped from green to yellow are Alabama, Delaware, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maine and Michigan. States that slipped from yellow to red are Arizona, Nebraska, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Vermont and Virginia.
Arkansas was upgraded from red to yellow, and Minnesota was upgraded from yellow to green.
In total, 10 states plus the District of Columbia earned a green rating, 31 states were rated yellow, and nine states were red.
The ratings for states vary depending on if the state has a “primary enforcement” mechanism for seat belt laws. Advocates favors primary enforcement over secondary enforcement. Secondary enforcement means a police officer can issue a citation for an offense only if the vehicle was stopped for a different violation.
Ms. Stone said states rated red have enacted under seven model laws with no primary enforcement. States rated yellow, she said, have enacted six of the model laws with primary enforcement, or seven to 13 of the laws without primary enforcement. States rated green have enacted 11 to 15 of the laws with primary enforcement, or nine laws including primary enforcement and an all-rider helmet law.
Aside from trying to get states to move forward on model laws, Jackie Gillen, Advocates vice president, said during a Web broadcast press conference that the federal government should use a “sanctions” approach to compel states to pass safety laws.
Illinois State Senate President John Cullorton, D-Chicago, added that when Congress threatens to withhold dollars for roads, states tend to pass laws.
Advocates’ 15 model laws include two adult occupant protection laws, one child passenger safety law, seven teen driving GDL laws, four impaired driving laws, and one distracted driving law—the text messaging ban.


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