The Car and Truck Fleet and Leasing Management Magazine

10 States Draw Top Scores for Traffic Safety Laws

February 08, 2016

All states except New Hampshire have a seat belt law, but only 34 states and Washington, D.C., allow primary enforcement of their seat belt laws. Photo courtesy of NHTSA.
All states except New Hampshire have a seat belt law, but only 34 states and Washington, D.C., allow primary enforcement of their seat belt laws. Photo courtesy of NHTSA.

Ten states and Washington, D.C., have drawn top safety scores — "green" overall ratings — from Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety in recognition of enactment of certain traffic safety laws.

The national safety advocacy group released a new report that argues for universal adoption of 15 traffic safety laws. The report also evaluated all 50 states based on how many of those laws they've already adopted. The 10 states that came out on top were California, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Oregon, Rhode Island and Washington.

The nine states that scored the lowest, drawing a "red" overall rating, were  Arizona, Florida, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming. 

The remaining 31 states received a "yellow" rating, showing "moderately positive performance" but still having a number of gaps in their highway safety laws, according to Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety.

The 15 recommended laws include a primary-enforcement front seat belt law, a primary-enforcement rear seat belt law, an all-rider motorcycle helmet law, a booster seat law, a law setting a minimum age of 16 for a learner's permit (learner's stage), a law setting a six-month holding period during which the teen driver must be supervised by an adult licensed driver at all times (learner's stage), a law requiring 30-50 hours of supervised driving for teens (learner's stage), and a nighttime driving restriction for unsupervised teen drivers (intermediate stage).

Other recommended laws include limits for the number of teenage passengers who may legally ride with a teen driver without adult supervision (intermediate stage), a law prohibiting all use of cellular devices by beginning teen drivers (except in the case of an emergency), a law prohibiting teen drivers from obtaining an unrestricted license until age 18, a law mandating installation of ignition interlock devices for all convicted drunk driving offenders, a child endangerment law, an open container law and an all-driver text messaging restriction.

The report includes specific requirements for all 15 laws. And some laws are given special status when the group scores states. No state without a primary-enforcement seat belt law covering both front and rear seats is eligible for the advocacy group's green overall rating, no matter how many other laws it has in effect.

Also, a state is ineligible for the green overall rating if it has repealed an existing all-rider motorcycle helmet law within the previous 10 years.

The report’s introduction sharply criticized some recent state legislative efforts to relax or repeal safe driving laws already on the books.

“Last year, there were several state legislatures where bills were seriously considered to repeal or weaken laws for seatbelt and motorcycle helmet use, bans on texting while driving, as well as essential protections for novice teen drivers,” noted Jacqueline S. Gillan, president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety. “These efforts confound logic, commonsense and fiscal responsibility.”

But Gillan commended elected officials in Kentucky, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah and West Virginia for enacting safety laws meeting the group’s criteria in 2015.

To download the report, click here.

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