Have declines in car accident deaths made us complacent?
- January 25, 2013
According to the nonprofit Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, state legislatures have become complacent about passing new traffic safety laws in the past few years. Instead of passing an average of 20 or more highway safety laws each year nationwide, last year state legislatures passed only ten. The reason? Well, it might be because the number of fatal traffic accidents in the U.S. had been dropping each year for nearly a decade — until last year.
The group would like to see all 50 states to enact 15 laws it says will reduce preventable traffic deaths, cut the healthcare and emergency response costs states bear as a result of car accidents, and help states qualify for federal grants. Without a single state enacting all 15, however, do we need to refocus?
Late last year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released data on the number of traffic deaths in the first nine months of 2012. After what seemed to be an unbreakable period of declining fatalities, that preliminary data showed its first increase — 7.1 percent over the same period the year before. That represents the sharpest increase in traffic deaths over the period since 1975.
Fourteen states, including New York earned green or “significantly advanced” toward adoption of all 15 of the highway safety laws recommended by the group:
- Ban on open containers of alcohol in vehicles
- Texting ban for all drivers
- Primary-enforcement seat belt law
- Motorcycle helmets required for all riders
- Appropriate booster seats mandated for children 4-7
- Minimum age of 16 for learner’s permits
- Minimum age of 18 for unrestricted licenses – No
- Six-months of mandatory adult supervision for new teen drivers
- 30-50 hours of supervised driving for new teen drivers
- Restriction on nighttime teen driving
- Restriction on the number of teen passengers allowed with an unsupervised teen driver
- Ban on use of cell phones or any devices by teen drivers
- Ignition interlock device requirement for drunk driving offenders
- Child endangerment penalty for drunk drivers who endanger minors
- Mandatory blood-alcohol testing for any driver involved in a fatal accident regardless of survival
New York State has enacted 13 of these laws, but has not passed a minimum age of 18 for obtaining an unrestricted driver’s license and has only a partial ban on the use of electronic devices by teen drivers.
- USA TODAY, “Group: Strong road-safety laws are lagging in states,” Larry Copeland, Jan. 15, 2013
- Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, “10th Annual Roadmap of State Highway Safety Laws,” Jan. 2013