An annual report tracking the adoption of essential traffic safety laws among states was released Wednesday, revealing new cause for concern.

In 2012 the nation’s motor vehicle fatalities climbed for the first time since 2006, while progress on traffic safety measures slowed.

“After six years of good news, there has been a reversal,” said Jackie Gillan, president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, during a Washington, D.C., news conference. Traffic deaths are once again on the rise. At the same time, state legislative action on traffic safety laws is on the decline. We must change that.”

The report, 2014 Roadmap of State Highway Safety Laws, evaluates 15 optimal laws and rates states based on their adoption of these measures.

In 2013 only 10 laws that meet the safety criteria for the report were passed individually in eight different states. Those include:

  • primary enforcement of seat belts, adopted in West Virginia for front seating positions and in Hawaii for rear seating positions;
  • graduated driver licensing, adopted in Hawaii, Maryland, Utah and Texas;
  • impaired driving, which passed in Maine and Tennessee; and
  • all-driver text messaging restriction, which was adopted in Hawaii and Virginia.

Other measures included in the report ratings address occupant protection, child safety, teen driving, impaired driving and distracted driving.

Georges Benjamin speaking

APHA Executive Director Georges Benjamin helps release the 2014 Roadmap of State Highway Safety Laws report in Washington, D.C. Photo by David Fouse

“Experience and research have shown that over the past 25 years these laws save lives, prevent injuries and contain costs associated with motor vehicle crashes,” said Catherine Chase, vice president of governmental affairs with Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety. “Unfortunately despite our progress these past 25 years, no state yet has all 15 basic safety laws. And 40 states fall short of achieving [our highest] safety rating.”

New in this year’s report is the inclusion of a primary enforcement seat belt law covering passengers in both the front and rear seating positions. Also new is the removal of the rating for mandatory blood alcohol concentration testing for drivers in a fatal crash, which is now required by all states.

“Policy is a health improvement tool and this Roadmap Report is a valuable instrument in helping point out areas for progress,” said APHA Executive Director Georges Benjamin, MD. “Time and experience have shown that when states enact strong traffic safety laws, lives are saved.”