Report provides highway safety solutions for state legislatures

Report says impaired and distracted driving increased and seat belt use decreased in the last year

January 11, 2021 / 2 minute read
road traffic safety

Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety today released the 18th edition of the annual Roadmap of State Highway Safety Laws, a comprehensive guide for state legislatures seeking to improve roadway traffic safety.

In 2020, impaired and distracted driving increased and seat belt use decreased, contributing to a higher overall fatality rate in the first half of the year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and news reports from around the country. 

In this report, Advocates urges states to “Change this Picture in 2021,” by enacting 16 recommended optimal highway safety laws on occupant protection, child passenger safety, graduated driver licensing (GDL), impaired driving, and distracted driving. Advocates was joined for the report’s virtual release by a panel of lawmakers as well as speakers from the public health sector, the insurance industry, and a grassroots traffic violence victim advocate.

“As our nation continues to cope with the devastating, wide-ranging ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are offering the 2021 Roadmap of State Highway Safety Laws to spur action to implement proven solutions to keep motorists and road users safe—and out of the over-extended emergency rooms," Cathy Chase, president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, said in a statement. "During the nearly two decades we’ve been issuing the Roadmap Report, nearly 600,000 people have been killed on our Nation’s roads and over 40 million more have been injured. This public health toll is significant, staggering, and deserving of swift action and serious attention."

Advocates’ report gives every state and Washington, D.C. a rating in five categories (Occupant Protection, Child Passenger Safety, Teen Driving, Impaired Driving, and Distracted Driving) as well as an overall grade of Green (Good); Yellow (Caution); and Red (Danger). This year, New York joined the list of seven other states and D.C. receiving green ratings. New York’s rating upgrade comes following the state’s enactment of an all-occupant seat belt requirement in 2020. 

Thirty states received a yellow rating indicating the need for improvement. Twelve states earned a red rating for lagging dangerously behind in the adoption of Advocates’ recommended laws. South Dakota, while remaining on the “red” list, is being recognized by Advocates as the “most improved” for enacting four optimal laws including an all-driver texting ban and significant upgrades to its GDL program—elevating South Dakota from its previous spot as the state with the fewest laws.  Missouri becomes one of just two states with only three optimal laws on the books, after the repeal in 2020 of its 52-year-old all-rider motorcycle helmet requirement.

"In addition to advancing state laws identified in the report, verified vehicle safety technologies can prevent and mitigate numerous crashes," Chase added. "We call on the new Congress and the incoming Administration to prioritize requiring technologies such as automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning and blind spot detection in all new vehicles.  With these strategies at the state and federal levels, we can ‘change the picture’ in 2021 and beyond.”

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SOURCE: Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety

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