The Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety called on the federal government to withhold federal dollars to the states to push standardization of highway rules, noting that many jurisdictions have failed to enact safety laws proven to save lives.
The group, a coalition of insurance, consumer, health, safety and law enforcement organizations advocating vehicle safety laws, programs and policies, today released its sixth annual “2009 Roadmap to State Highway Safety Laws.”
The group found that no state in the nation has adopted all 15 “proven-effective measures to reduce traffic crash deaths and injuries,” and few enacted new laws toward that goal.
The laws relate to teen driving, drunk driving and the required use of seat belts, child booster seats and motorcycle helmets.
Four states–Arkansas, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming–were rated the worst with less than seven of the safety laws enacted without primary enforcement laws. Thirty-one states showed “moderately positive performance, but with numerous gaps still in their highway safety laws.”
During a press conference today, Judith Lee Stone, president of the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, said that despite the continuing number of highway deaths, there were more than 40,000 in 2007, and millions injured.
She said state legislative activity to improve safety is discouraging and that it is time for the federal government to step in and require states to adopt the highway safety laws by withholding federal highway dollars to those states not adopting the rules.
“Why should there be one proven-effective life-saving law in effect in one jurisdiction and not in the other?” said Assistant Police Chief Patrick Burke, of the Washington D.C. Metropolitan Police Department, during the press conference. “Model safety laws should be consistent across our jurisdictional boundaries.”
Captain Tom Didone, a Montgomery County, Md., Police Department district manager, said with 6,000 children dying each year in automobile accidents, the need for unified safety laws is well past due.
Capt. Didone’s 15-year-old son was killed in October driving with a teenage friend who was newly licensed. His son failed to put on his seatbelt.
“We have to make these laws simple. We have to make them easily enforceable. And we have to make sure everyone understands them,” said Capt. Didone.
Despite the fact his children were schooled in the importance of highway safety, he said one can’t take for granted children “will do automatically what they do around you.” But uniform laws will help raise and strengthen awareness of the safety standards that will help save lives, he said.