Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety released its list of 2020’s best–and worst–road safety enforcement laws.
‘Advocates,’ a group of public health, consumer, safety, and insurance firms supporting programs aiming to further highway safety, published its 2020 Roadmap of State Highway Safety Laws on January 23rd. At the top of the list, for the fourth consecutive year, is Rhode Island.
The list analyzes the states doing the best job with highway safety efforts, ranking all 50 states and the District of Columbia on their enforcement of 16 different traffic safety laws. Theses laws, including those regarding motorcycle helmets, seatbelts, and distracted and impaired driving, are ones that Advocates finds essential to overall road safety.
President of Advocates, Cathy Chase, said bringing to light each state’s safety efforts is vital. According to Chase, around 100 people are killed daily in vehicle crashes across the country. Not only does every state need to make a priority of making massive improvements in order to decrease these tragedies, but roadway crashes also bring a large burden to the economy–$242 billion annually, actually.
“With the start of a new decade,” Chase said, “our clear vision is to eradicate the horrific death and injury toll occurring on our roadways.”
And the financial burden hits everyone: “This [toll] results in each person living in the U.S. essentially paying a “crash tax” of $784 every year,” Chase explained.
Advocates’ report calls on elected officials to take immediate action to improve road safety, and rates each state based on the number of priority traffic safety laws passed, in addition to their efforts in five categories: occupant protection, child passenger safety, teen driving, impaired driving, and distracted driving.
Each state is given a “grade” of either Green (Good), Yellow (Caution), or Red (Danger).
Rhode Island snagged the top score with its 13 of the recommended safety laws in place. It only lacks an all-rider motorcycle helmet law, unrestricted license age limit regulations, and nighttime unsupervised teen restrictions. Advocates pushes for unrestricted licenses, which allow drivers to operate a vehicle without guardian or instructor supervision, not to be given to drivers under 18.
Also given “green” ratings were Delaware, Maine, Oregon, Washington, California, Louisiana, and the District of Columbia, which have all seen notable advancement in their safety law enforcement.
The not-so-safe states given a “red” rating by Advocates were South Dakota, Wyoming, Arizona, Missouri, Montana, Florida, Ohio, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Virginia. South Dakota continues to be the state with the lowest score, with only two of the optimal laws in place.
“The 16 optimal laws are precisely the types of recommendations nurses endorse to help prevent crashes and fatalities from happening, or to reduce their severity,” said former president of the Emergency Nurses Association, Mary Jagim. “The goal of this rating is not to shame those states but rather to serve as a clarion call to action.”
Just because multiple states leave much to be desired in terms of road safety doesn’t mean many of them aren’t making progress, though. Last year, nine states and Washington, D.C. saw 12 different laws passed which met Advocates’ criteria. Arizona and Florida implemented texting bans (Arizona’s includes a primary enforcement ban, meaning police can immediately pull a person over if he or she is not complying); Arkansas and D.C. enacted graduated driver licensing cell phone bans; Louisiana, Maine, Washington, and D.C. put in place child safety seat laws for children until aged two (or longer) to be rear facing; Maine’s booster seat law was updated; New Mexico implemented a child endangerment law; and Kentucky and New Jersey instituted ignition interlock device laws for drunk driving offenders.
Still, every state has yet to enact all of Advocates’ 16 optimal laws, and 31 states are still in need of improvement (in addition to the 12 that are falling dangerously behind).
Advocate found that progress is needed strongly in the following areas:
-Seat belt laws protecting all seating positions, as nearly half of all crash fatalities last year involved a driver or passenger without a seatbelt–31 states lack recommended seat belt laws
-Age/size-appropriate child safety seats–43 states have yet to implement optimal rear-facing seats (until age 2 or longer)
-Graduated Driver Licensing laws–no state has all six of these provisions in place for teen/novice drivers
-All-driver texting ban–five states still need to enact this law
“The status quo is unacceptable,” said Chase. “As state legislatures around the country convene, now is the time for attention, activism, and action.”