As Traffic Deaths Rise, Here's A Report Card For States On Basic Safety Laws

Rhode Island is the best and South Dakota is the worst when it comes to highway safety laws, according to a report today from Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety.

The report from the Washington D.C.-based trade group evaluates states’ progress in adopting highway safety laws as traffic crash deaths climb to a seven-year high. The laws cover seatbelt and motorcycle helmet use, impaired and distracted driving, teen driving, and child passenger safety.

The group has identified 376 state laws it says legislatures across the U.S. should adopt to regulate seat belt use, motorcycle helmet use, booster seats, graduating driver licensing for teen drivers, impaired driving, and text messaging. The group found that 16 states don’t have a primary enforcement seat belt law for front seat passengers and that 32 states lack seat belt regulations for rear seat passengers.

“People are needlessly dying on our roads while lifesaving measures are needlessly dying in our state legislatures,” Jacqueline Gillan, president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, said in a webcast Tuesday morning.

 

Traffic fatalities rose 7.2% in 2015, the largest percentage increase in 50 years, according to the group. Preliminary figures for the first nine months of 2016 show an 8% increase over the same period in 2015. More than 35,000 people were killed and 2.4 million were injured in traffic accidents in 2015, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

“We need laws that protect every passenger in every seat in every ride,” Tom Didone, captain of the police department in Montgomery County, Maryland, said at Tuesday’s press conference.

Each state is given a rating in the five categories. In addition to Rhode Island, states that earned the top rating include Delaware, Washington, Louisiana, Oregon, and Washington DC. The worst-performing states were Wyoming, Arizona, Missouri, Montana, Florida, Iowa, Nebraska, Virginia, Idaho, Mississippi, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Vermont.