A preventable epidemic.

That’s how public health and safety leaders, including APHA, diagnosed the deadly toll of motor vehicle crashes during a news conference today while releasing the 2015 Roadmap of State Highway Safety Laws. The annual report assesses all 50 states on their progress toward adoption of 15 basic traffic safety laws.

State rankings on highway safety laws

The 2015 Roadmap of State Highway Safety Laws assesses the progress of states and the District of Columbia in adopting 15 basic highway safety laws. Courtesy Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety

Unfortunately, the advocates said the prognosis could be better.

“Last year was a lackluster year for states in terms of passing highway safety laws with a mere eight laws enacted in only seven states,” said Jackie Gillan, president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety. “Governors and state legislators must renew, reinvigorate and re-energize their efforts to close safety loopholes.

“These laws will save lives, prevent costly injuries and help states close budget gaps. And, they are strongly supported by the public.”

The laws enacted in 2014 include:

  • Graduated driver licensing for teen drivers, with New Hampshire adopting a cell phone restriction and Minnesota adopting a supervised driving requirement;
  • Impaired driving, with Alabama, Delaware, Mississippi and New Hampshire putting in place requirements for ignition interlock devices for all offenders; and
  • All-driver text messaging restrictions enacted by New Mexico and South Carolina.

No states enacted laws last year on primary enforcement of seat belts — 17 states still need front-seat and 33 states need rear-seat provisions. And no states adopted an all-rider motorcycle helmet law — 31 states still need — or laws requiring booster seats for child passengers ages 4 through 7, which 19 states still need.

“Enactment of strong and comprehensive traffic safety laws is essential to our efforts to stop needless deaths and injuries,” said Georges Benjamin, executive director of APHA.

Motor vehicle crashes lead to 32,719 fatalities and an additional 2.3 million injuries every year.

Advocates said shortcomings in our traffic safety laws are particularly troublesome. These include incomplete occupant protection laws such as requiring seat belt use for front seat passengers but not for those travelling in the back seat, and preventing law enforcement from issuing a seat belt citation unless a motorist commits another offense.

“Closing these lethal loopholes should be the top legislative priority,” Gillan said.