Progress in States' Traffic Safety Laws Stall, Study Shows


  • State Traffic Safety Laws Picture

    State Traffic Safety Laws Picture

    A new report card is out on traffic safety laws. | January 16, 2013

Just the Facts:
  • Despite grant incentives and a new federal transportation law, states across the country have stalled in the adoption of 15 basic traffic safety laws recommended by experts.
  • New York has been the most progressive, adopting 13 of the 15 laws that tackle teen driver-licensing, distracted-driving and occupant-protection programs, including booster seat requirements.
  • South Dakota has the worst record, with only three of the laws on the books.

WASHINGTON — Despite grant incentives and a new federal transportation law, states across the country have stalled in adopting 15 basic traffic safety laws recommended by experts, according to the 10th annual report card by Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety.

New York has been the most progressive, adopting 13 of the 15 laws that tackle teen driver-licensing laws, distracted-driving laws and occupant protection programs, including booster seat requirements, notes the 2013 Roadmap of State Highway Safety Laws report by Advocates.

The next safest are the District of Columbia, Illinois, Kansas, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Delaware, Georgia, Rhode Island and Washington.

South Dakota has the worst record, with only three of the laws on the books, followed by Mississippi, Arizona, Montana, Nebraska, Wyoming, Iowa, Florida, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Carolina and Texas.

Last year only 10 state highway safety laws were enacted, in contrast to 16 laws passed in 2011 and 22 laws passed in 2010.

"The traffic safety progress we've made since 2005 is at risk of being undone," said Jacqueline Gillan, president of Advocates, during a Webcast news conference. "Several states have been moving backwards and most states are not moving at all to enact lifesaving laws."

Gillan singled out Michigan as failing to protect its residents by repealing its 30-year-old motorcycle helmet requirement law.

She's also concerned with current preliminary figures of the first nine months of 2012, which indicate a 7.1 percent increase in fatalities compared to 2011. In 2011, highway deaths fell to 32,367, a 1.9 percent decrease from 2010.

"The annual costs to society from motor vehicle crashes remain at more than $230 billion. There is no better time for states to act than now," she stressed.

Gillan expected better progress from states in this report card because of the new incentive grant programs created under the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act, MAP-21 (Pub.L. 112-141) that President Obama signed into law in July 2012. "There is no excuse" to avoid enacting them, she said.

To read the complete 2013 Roadmap of State Highway Safety Laws report, visit the organization's Web site.

Edmunds says: Federal safety experts want more and more state laws enacted, but pushback from the public and legislators is not uncommon.

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