To questions of “are we there yet?” regarding highway safety, Cathy Chase, President of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (AHAS), says no.
Tens of thousands of people are killed in car accidents each year. That amounts to approximately 100 deaths each day, and nearly 7,500 personal injuries. AHAS and Chase have made it their mission to put an end to these injuries and fatalities by pressing state legislatures to take action and improve their highway safety laws.
AHAS recently released its 2020 Roadmap of State Highway Safety Laws which includes within it Safe Roads Report Cards that grade each state, as well as the District of Columbia (D.C.), on the quality of their automobile safety laws. The timing of the release intentionally coincides with the start of many state legislative sessions. It is meant to prompt a discussion of what each respective jurisdiction can do to improve its road safety laws.
The roadmap says that in 2019, 10 jurisdictions (9 states and D.C.) passed 12 laws into effect, improving road safety in the areas of texting and cell phone bans, child seating safety requirements, and drunk driving regulations. Nevertheless, the roadmap argues, much remains to be done.
The report cards issued grades according to color: green (good), yellow (caution), and red (danger). Just eight jurisdictions (7 states and D.C.) received a green grade, while 31 were labeled as yellow. AHAS determined that the remaining 12 were in a red predicament, wherein they had enacted few meaningful road safety laws.
To give some perspective, the state of Rhode Island has enacted 13 AHAS “approved” laws, the most of any state in the nation. South Dakota, on the other hand, has enacted just two laws, the least of any jurisdiction.
These personal injuries, deemed preventable, continue to happen on a large scale. Roughly half of all car accident fatalities occur because a motorist is improperly buckled into their seat. However, according to AHAS, 31 states lack sufficient laws to address this problem.
AHAS is especially worried about inadequate legislation concerning placing children in size and age-appropriate car seats, the issuance of graduated drivers licenses for teen and novice drivers, as well as an across-the-board ban on texting while driving.
The roadmap acknowledges that vehicle technology can play a role in this, and that some measures – such as automatic emergency braking, blind-spot detectors, and lane departure warnings – can be effective at minimizing the frequency of car crashes. However, AHAS cautions that these innovations are often priced out of reach for many consumers.
Furthermore, they state that they can, at times, be confusing, thus creating their own dangers for motorists across the country.