New Report Shows Highway Safety Deficit Adds to State Budget Woes

WASHINGTON, Jan. 24, 2011 /Coal Geology/ — Highway safety advocates today released the 2011 Roadmap Report, the eighth annual report card grading all 50 states and the District of Columbia on their performance when it comes to adopting 15 basic traffic safety laws.  This year the report’s publishers, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates), focused on the state budgetary impact of highway safety gaps.

“As states debate about keeping their treasuries solvent, lawmakers and governors in many states are blind to obvious legislative actions that will help with the budget crisis,” said Judith Lee Stone, president of Advocates. “The 2011 Roadmap To State Highway Safety Laws shows that adoption of effective state traffic safety laws saves lives and saves taxpayer dollars.”

Among the 15 model laws Advocates evaluated in its 2011 Roadmap To State Highway Safety Laws are seat belt, booster seat and motorcycle helmet measures, in addition to restrictions and requirements for teen drivers, all-driver texting bans and tougher impaired driving laws.

The federal government estimates that motor vehicle crashes cost society $230 billion every year.  In 2009, nearly 34,000 people died in crashes throughout the nation and millions more were injured.  This is equivalent to a “crash tax” of more than $800 for every person.

“There are both obvious and hidden costs in the millions of deaths and injuries that occur on the nation’s roads every year.  Motor vehicle costs are diverting and depleting our nation’s resources at an alarming rate,” said Ted Miller, Principal Research Scientist, Pacific Institute of Research and Evaluation.  “The Medicaid bill for crashes alone is $8 billion per year.  In addition, catastrophic injury patients pour onto the Medicaid rolls to pay their hospital bills.  And once they convert to Medicaid, not only do we pay that hospital bill, we pay for all their health care.”

“Legislators can do more to save lives and prevent serious injuries by passing traffic safety laws than I can ever hope to save in a lifetime of treating patients in the emergency room.  For example, Virginia should pass a primary enforcement seat belt law this year to save money from unnecessary Medicaid and other medical expenditures which are accelerating annually.  It’s a matter of dollars and sense,” said Dr. Mark R. Sochor, an emergency physician and Associate Professor and Research Director, University of Virginia Department of Emergency Medicine.

In this year’s report states were given one of three ratings based on how many of the 15 optimal laws they have: Green (Good); Yellow (Caution – state needs improvement); and Red (Danger – state falls dangerously behind). Placement in one of the three ratings was based solely on whether or not a state had adopted a law as defined in the report, and not on any evaluation of a state’s highway safety education or enforcement programs.

In 2010, five states improved their rating from Yellow to Green, Delaware, Georgia, Kansas, Louisiana and Michigan.  Two states upgraded from Red to Yellow, Vermont and Wyoming.  In all, the District of Columbia and 15 states were rated in the highest rated category of green including New Jersey, Illinois, Oregon, Maryland, New York, Georgia, Delaware, Michigan, North Carolina, Tennessee, Washington, Kansas, Minnesota, California and Louisiana.  The states with the worst rating of red are South Dakota, Arizona, North Dakota, Virginia, Nebraska, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.  Explanations for assigning the best and worst ratings can be found at www.saferoads.org.

“Having just participated in the most challenging budget session I’ve experienced in Illinois where we made extremely difficult decisions to get our finances back on track, I can tell you that it is a painful process. There aren’t many stones left unturned in the quest to save our state money,” said Illinois State Senate President John Cullerton (D-6th District, Chicago).  “If we hadn’t already passed the great majority of laws rated in Advocates’ Roadmap Report, I would have recommended that we do so right away.  States pay a steep price for not having these safety laws and it can add up to many millions of dollars in Medicaid and other health care costs.”

In 2010, 13 states enacted one or more of Advocates’ recommended highway safety laws for a total of 22 new laws. No state enacted an all-rider motorcycle helmet law although there were 9 unsuccessful attempts to repeal existing laws.  The new laws enacted in all state legislatures are:

Primary Enforcement of Seat Belts:  Georgia (eliminated pick-up truck exemption) and Kansas

Booster Seats (children ages 4 through 7):  Colorado (upgraded to primary enforcement)

Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) for teen drivers:  Alabama (passenger and cell phone restrictions), Georgia (cell phone restriction), Kentucky (cell phone restriction), Massachusetts (cell phone restriction), Michigan (nighttime and passenger restriction), Oklahoma (cell phone restriction), Vermont (cell phone restriction), and Washington (cell phone restriction)

Impaired Driving:  Wisconsin (mandatory BAC testing for drivers who survived)

All-Driver Text Messaging Restriction:   Delaware, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming

The 2010 report found that an additional 362 new laws need to be adopted in all states and D.C. to fully meet Advocates’ 15 legislative recommendations:

* 19 states still need an optimal primary enforcement seat belt law;
* 30 states still need an optimal all-rider motorcycle helmet law;
* 23 states still need an optimal booster seat law;
* No state meets all the criteria of Advocates’ recommended GDL program;
* 45 states and DC are missing one or more critical impaired driving laws; and,
* 24 states still need an all-driver text messaging restriction.

Addressing today’s National Press Club news conference was Marlene Case, who became a highway safety activist after her 17-year old son Andrew, was killed in a crash involving a teen driver in 2009. “We know that at ages 16 and 17, teens just don’t understand the consequences of reckless behavior,” said Case. “We want parents to hear our story and to join with us to urge lawmakers in Pennsylvania and other states to pass strong laws that limit the number of teen passengers with new drivers, strengthen seatbelt rules, and outlaw use of cell phones.  We strongly support federal adoption of the Safe Teen and Novice Driver Uniform Protection Act (STANDUP) so every teen in every state is protected.  It’s too late for Andrew, but it’s not too late for others. These laws don’t cost states any money and only require political leadership.”

Bill Martin, Senior Vice President of Farmers Insurance and Insurance Co-Chair of Advocates’ Board of Directors said, “For insurers, the idea that preventing injury and saving lives actually also saves money is not new.  But nothing the insurer does can fully bring their customer back from the emotional tragedy suffered by families and friends when car crashes take lives and inflict debilitating injuries.”

Also participating in the news announcement was Dr. Grant Baldwin, Director of Unintentional Injury Prevention at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) who described a new system that will be available in February to map death rates and estimate costs associated with injury-related deaths at state and county levels.

Electronic Press Kit and Webcast

An electronic press kit including the complete 2011 Roadmap to State Highway Safety Laws, speaker statements and a replay of today’s news conference webcast can be found at www.saferoads.org.

Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety is a coalition of insurance, consumer, health, safety and law enforcement organizations that work together to advance state and federal highway and vehicle safety laws, programs and policies.

SOURCE Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety

CONTACT: Beth Weaver, +1-301-814-4088, beth_weaver@verizon.net

Web Site: http://www.saferoads.org

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