Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety

All media and reporters on deadline, please contact us at (202) 408-1711
 
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Jen Maly (202) 408-1711 x20 jmaly@saferoads.org
Thursday, January 8, 2004 Bill Bronrott (301) 652-6016 bbcomm@aol.com

Click HERE for the complete report

AS STATES OPEN 2004 LEGISLATIVE SESSIONS,
NEW STUDY SHOWS DEADLY GAPS IN STATE ROAD SAFETY LAWS

Advocates Urge States to Enact 16 Essential Seat Belt, Child Restraint, Teen Driving,
Drunk Driving and Motorcycle Helmet Laws to Curb Rise in U.S. Traffic Deaths

WASHINGTON, D.C. (January 8, 2004) -- Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates) today released its first "Roadmap to State Highway Safety Laws: A Report on States in the Passing Lane, in the Slow Lane and Stopped on the Shoulder" that found many dangerous gaps in a patchwork quilt of state highway safety laws that are contributing to the rise in U.S. highway deaths and injuries.

The report details where the 50 states and the District of Columbia "pass or fail" on 16 proven-effective highway safety laws in the four categories of adult occupant protection, child passenger safety, teen driving and impaired driving.

The report found that no state has all 16 laws in place. There are only a few states, such as California, North Carolina and Washington that are in the "passing lane" because they have most of the laws plus a primary enforcement seat belt law. There are more states "stopped on the shoulder," such as Alaska, Minnesota, Mississippi, Ohio, Rhode Island and Wyoming, because they have the weakest adult occupant protection laws and have big gaps in their drunk driving, teen driving and child passenger safety laws. And, most states are crowded in the "slow lane" because they lack most of the 16 lifesaving traffic laws.

With the majority of state legislatures opening their 2004 sessions this month, Advocates sent the report to the nation's Governors and urged them to enact legislation this year to ensure that all 16 laws are uniformly in effect across the nation.

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death to Americans ages 2 to 33. In 2002 alone, 6.3 million traffic crashes resulted in 42,815 deaths and 3 million injuries, representing a 12 year high. Highway crashes cost U.S. taxpayers and the economy $230 billion annually, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

While numerous lifesaving laws have been passed by states over the years, "unfortunately, there is still a vast, unfinished public health and safety agenda, including enactment of primary enforcement seat belt, impaired driving, all-rider motorcycle helmet use, booster seat and teen driving laws," said Judith Lee Stone, President of Advocates. "Without these laws being uniformly applied as a foundation for an aggressive traffic enforcement program, states will struggle to reverse the rising tide of highway deaths and injuries."

The report found "a patchwork quilt" of state traffic safety laws across the nation with gaping holes in need of repair. For example, 30 states do not have a primary enforcement seat belt law, 31 states do not require all motorcycle riders to wear a helmet, 16 states have dangerous gaps in their child restraint laws, 28 states need booster seat laws, and no state protects new teen drivers with an optimal graduated driver licensing (GDL) program. Additionally, many impaired driving laws are missing in numerous states throughout the nation.

"In contrast, every person flying on every airplane, in every state, is subject to the same uniform safety laws and regulations set by the federal government," said Jacqueline Gillan, Vice President of Advocates. "This uniformity has been the foundation for achieving an exemplary aviation safety record in the U.S. Were this the case for motor vehicle travel, and nearly every state had the same essential traffic safety laws, thousands of deaths and millions of injuries could be prevented. This report shows that we are a long way from achieving this goal."

Advocates' report divides the 16 model laws into four issue categories. In each category, states are listed alphabetically in one of three sections: Good, Average and Poor. Placement in one of the three sections was based solely on whether or not a state has adopted a law as defined in the report, and not on any evaluation of a state's highway safety education-enforcement program or on fatality rates. The four issue sections and corresponding laws are:

1. Adult Occupant Protection (2 laws): a primary enforcement seat belt law and an all-rider motorcycle helmet law.

2. Child Passenger Safety (2 laws): a child restraint law with no gaps and a child booster seat law.

3. Teen Driving -- Optimal Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) Program Provisions (4 laws):

Learner's Stage: 6-Month Holding Period and 30-50 Hours Supervised Driving

Intermediate Stage: Nighttime Driving Restriction and Passenger Restriction

4. Impaired Driving (8 laws): .08 Percent BAC per se, repeat offender, open container, high blood-alcohol content (BAC), mandatory BAC testing for drivers killed in fatal crashes, mandatory BAC testing for drivers who survive fatal crashes, sobriety checkpoints, and child endangerment laws.

"Drunk driving and motorcycle deaths are up, the number of teen drivers killed in crashes has increased and more than half of car occupants killed in crashes are not buckled up," said Advocates' President Stone. "These crashes cost Americans an estimated $230 billion annually in property and productivity loss, medical and emergency bills and other related costs."

Advocates is a unique alliance of insurance companies and consumer, health, safety and law enforcement organizations that work together to advance state and national highway and vehicle safety policy.

Stephen W. Hargarten, MD, MPH, a member of the Advocates' board who is Chairman of the Department of Emergency Medicine and Director of The Injury Research Center, Medical College of Wisconsin, pointed out that "with the stroke of a pen, governors and legislators can save more lives when a law is enacted than I and my emergency medicine colleagues can in our entire careers."

Advocates' Vice President Gillan added that the U.S. is "facing a major and costly public health epidemic on our highways. Just as we vaccinate against the flu and other diseases, there is a public policy vaccine: proven effective laws that are ready to be implemented across the nation."

One such measure is a primary enforcement seat belt law that requires anyone riding in a motor vehicle, as defined by state law, to buckle up or face a fine. No other citation need be issued first in order to write such a ticket. More than 50 percent of those people killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2002 were not protected by a seat belt. Thirty (30) states still do not have a primary enforcement seat belt law, including Tennessee.

"If Tennessee had a primary enforcement seat belt law, many more teens and adults would buckle up," said Kristen Appleby, whose brother Michael, age 16, was killed in November 2001 when he was not wearing his seat belt and was ejected from his SUV. "My family is convinced that if our state had primary enforcement, Michael would have known that he should wear his seat belt and he would still be here with us today."

An all-rider motorcycle helmet law protects riders from death or serious injury by requiring helmet use, no matter what age, on every ride. For the fifth consecutive year, motorcycle deaths climbed, to a total of 3,244 in 2002 - a 50 percent increase since 1997.

Only 10 states (AL, CA, GA, MD, MI, NJ, NY, NC, OR, WA) and DC have both a primary enforcement seat belt law and an all-rider motorcycle helmet law. 30 states do not have a primary enforcement seat belt law. 31 states do not have an all-rider motorcycle helmet use law. 21 states have neither law on their books.

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death and disability of American teenagers. Deaths of young drivers (ages 16-20) increased by more than 5 percent in 2002 compared to 2001 - a total of 3,723 deaths. An optimal graduated driver licensing (GDL) program provides for a 6-month holding period, 30-50 hours supervised driving, and nighttime driving and teenage passenger restrictions.

The report found that no state has an optimal graduated driver licensing (GDL) program. 11 states and the District of Columbia (DC) have three of the four necessary provisions that make an optimal GDL program, 15 states have two of the four optimal provisions, 16 states have one of the four optimal provisions, and 8 states have no optimal provisions in their GDL program.

Advocates considers a child restraint law with no gaps to be one where all passengers up to age 16 must be secured in either a child restraint or a seat belt, regardless of seating position. Many states have gaps in their laws that exempt children seated in the back seat or in out-of-state vehicles. A state is considered to have no gaps only if all children up to age 16 are covered in every seating position and there are no exemptions.

Because all children should be in age and size appropriate restraint systems, Advocates considers a booster seat law one that explicitly requires children to graduate to a belt-positioning booster seat when too large for a conventional car seat and too small for an adult seat belt. Booster seats raise a child off the vehicle seat in order to improve the fit of lap and shoulder belts across the lower (pelvis) and upper body (chest) of the child. Only 15 states and DC have enacted both a child restraint law with no gaps and a child booster seat law.

In 2002, alcohol-related deaths rose for the second year in a row to a total of 17,419. Only 10 states have enacted all eight key anti-drunk driving measures featured in the report.

"At a time when most Governors and state legislatures are facing major budget deficits and difficult budget choices, passing these 16 laws will save lives and save dollars," Advocates' President Stone said. "We all pay the price of states having weak highway safety laws. That is why this report is a call to action for states to act swiftly. Without such action, Congress should step in to bring down the tragic and preventable death toll."

The complete report can be found here.

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01/08/2004 - 15:15
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Adam Vogt (202) 408-1711 x20 avogt@saferoads.org
Monday, February 9, 2004 Bill Bronrott (301) 652-6016 bbcomm@aol.com

SENATORS WARNER, CLINTON, DEWINE, AND BROAD-BASED SAFETY COALITION
CALL FOR PASSAGE OF NATIONAL SEAT BELT LEGISLATION
Warner-Clinton National Highway Safety Act Would Prod States to Enact Lifesaving
Primary Enforcement Seat Belt Laws or Raise Seat Belt Use Rate to 90 Percent

Washington, D.C. (Monday, February 9, 2004) - A broadly based coalition of safety, medical, insurance, automotive, and law enforcement groups today joined with U.S. Senators John Warner (R-VA), Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY), Mike DeWine (R-OH), and the National Black Caucus of State Legislators (NBCSL) to call for passage of the National Highway Safety Act of 2003 (S. 1993).

The measure, sponsored by Senators Warner and Clinton, urges each state to enact a primary enforcement seat belt law or raise its seat belt use rate to 90 percent. If a state fails to accomplish one or the other within three years, they face the loss of two percent of their federal highway funding, growing to four percent in subsequent years.

A primary enforcement seat belt law allows law enforcement officers to issue a citation any time they observe an unbelted motorist. Under a weaker secondary enforcement law, officers may issue a seat belt citation only if the officer has stopped the vehicle for some other traffic violation.

Today, only 20 states (AL, CA, CT, DE, GA, HI, IL, IN, IA, LA, MD, MI, NJ, NM, NY, NC, OK, OR, TX, WA) and the District of Columbia have a primary enforcement seat belt law, despite research showing that such a law raises a state's seat belt use rate by 10-15 percentage points.

Over the past five years, the number of motor vehicle occupants killed in crashes has risen each year. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), seat belts save 13,000 lives each year, but 7,000 people die because they do not use seat belts. In 2001, 73 percent of restrained passengers involved in fatal crashes survived, compared to 44 percent of unrestrained occupants. The deaths and injuries that result from non-use of safety belts cost society an estimated $26 billion annually in medical care, lost productivity and other injury-related costs.

"This legislation is no fad or experiment. It's a proven success. Nearly every state that has passed primary enforcement has cut death and injury significantly. Yet, today less than half the states have enacted such laws," said Senator Warner. "To paraphrase President Reagan when he signed the 21 Minimum Drinking Age Act nearly 20 years ago, this problem is bigger than the individual States. It's a truly national problem, and it touches all our lives. With the problem so clear and the proven solution at hand, we have no misgivings about taking this common-sense step. It will help rally state legislators to save our lives across the country."

With Congress now considering a six-year multi-billion dollar plan to invest in the nation's highways, sponsors of the legislation believe there is no better time to propose this safety measure. They are working with the safety coalition to add S. 1993 to the SAFETEA (Safe, Accountable, Flexible, and Efficient Transportation Equity Act of 2003), S. 1072.

In a statement, Sen. Clinton commented, "Our legislation will put the safe in SAFETEA. More than half of all highway fatalities occur among people who are not wearing seat belts. This legislation gives states strong incentives to increase seat belt use and will help save thousands of lives every year."

"Safety belts are the number one way of improving safety on our roads," added Sen. Mike DeWine (R-OH). "Though safety belt use rates have improved recently, over 20 percent of Americans still do not buckle up when in the car. We can do better. This legislation is one of the surest ways we can decrease the astounding number of Americans who die on our roads every year."

Judith Lee Stone, President of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, one of the groups backing S. 1993, described the urgent need for federal legislation to speed up the passage of state primary enforcement seat belt laws: "The pace of adoption by states of this lifesaving law has been painfully slow, only about one per year," said Stone. "At this rate, it will be the year 2035 before we have all states with primary enforcement laws and higher seat belt use rates."

"The auto industry is pleased to stand with the Interstate Seat Belt Coalition, a diverse group committed to the enactment of S. 1993," added Phil Haseltine, President, Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety. "This is definitely legislation that needs to be enacted and will be the catalyst to increase belt use across the nation."

Wendy Hamilton, the National President of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, said that "a seat belt is your number one defense against a drunk driver. A primary enforcement seat belt law is one of the most important pieces of legislation that states can pass. Federal action is long overdue to encourage the states to do the right thing."

Groups concerned about racial profiling have also come out in support of the legislation. The Congressional Black Caucus has stated that increasing safety belt use among African Americans is an "urgent national health priority." The National Conference of Black Mayors and National Black Caucus of State Legislators (NBCSL) have also expressed support for strong laws that increase safety belt use.

Arkansas State Representative Steve Jones (D-Arkansas), chair of the NBCSL's Committee on Transportation, pointed out that seat belt use by African-Americans is well below the national average. A recent Meharry Medical College study reported that if all African-Americans used seat belts, 26,000 injuries would be prevented annually and 1,300 lives and $2.6 billion in societal costs saved each year.

"Though we must continue to work to bring an end to racial profiling, we must also be aggressive in promoting seat belt use by racial minorities," Rep. Jones said. "Too many African-Americans of all ages, but particularly young people, are dying or being severely injured because they are unbelted."

Kristen Appleby, whose brother Michael died as an unbuckled occupant in a 2001 car crash in Tennessee, believes that her brother might be alive today if Tennessee had a primary enforcement seat belt law. "My family will never have Michael back, but I am here to honor his memory by asking you to help save lives and prevent another family's tragedy, by requiring every state to pass a national primary seat belt law," said Appleby.

The National Highway Safety Act of 2003 is supported by over 130 national, state and local groups representing consumer, health, safety, medical and child advocacy organizations, the insurance industry, the auto industry, law enforcement, African-American mayors and state legislators, and drunk driving victims.

Other speakers at the news conference included: Dana G. Schrad, Executive Director, Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police; Ron Davis, M.D., American Medical Association Board of Trustees, Chicago; Alan Maness, Federal Affairs Director and Associate General Counsel, State Farm Insurance Companies; and Joan Claybrook, President, Public Citizen.

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Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (www.saferoads.org) is an alliance of consumer, health, law enforcement and safety groups and insurance companies and agents working together to make America's roads safer. Founded in 1989, Advocates encourages the adoption of federal and state laws, policies and programs that save lives and reduce injuries.


02/09/2004 - 15:18

03/23/2004 - 15:20
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Debra Kubecka
Tuesday, April 13, 2004 (202) 408-1711 x15

VICTORY FOR MARYLAND
MOTORCYCLE HELMETS WILL CONTINUE
TO SAVE LIVES IN MARYLAND

STATEMENT OF JACQUELINE GILLAN, VICE-PRESIDENT OF
ADVOCATES FOR HIGHWAY AND AUTO SAFETY

Common sense and safety concerns prevailed as the Maryland Environmental Matters committee chose not to take up Senate Bill 611 in the final hours of the session that would have essentially repealed Maryland's motorcycle helmet law. Since Maryland's helmet law went into effect in 1992, the motorcycle death rate has dropped by 56 percent.

The state's own Fiscal and Policy Note for Senate Bill 611 showed serious economic costs if Maryland's all-rider helmet law were repealed. At a time when Maryland's budget resources are strained and the State's Medicaid program is in crisis, this bill would have resulted in increased deaths and injuries and irresponsible fiscal policy. Maryland's motorcycle helmet law is working well and should not be changed. Helmet use has been found to be one of the most important factors in preventing death and injury among motorcyclists. Furthermore, most motorcyclists who are killed or injured are over age 21, supporting the need for an all-rider helmet law.

Past studies by the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) on motorcycle helmet use consistently show that when states irresponsibly repeal these laws, helmet use rates go down, deaths go up and head injuries increase. These results are similar to what occurred in Arkansas and Texas when an all-rider helmet law was repealed.

Head injuries are the most common and the most costly type of injuries to treat. Motorcycle helmets have been shown to be the most effective safety device available to motorcyclists to save lives and reduce serious brain injuries. Non-helmeted patients incur higher hospital charges than those wearing helmets. Furthermore, costs not covered by the insurance of a brain-injured motorcyclist are passed on to the public.

Advocates commends the Maryland Legislature for protecting the motorcycle helmet law. This law will continue to save lives and revenue in Maryland.

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Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety is an alliance of consumer, health, law enforcement and safety groups and insurance companies and agents working together to make America's roads safer. Founded in 1989, Advocates encourages the adoption of federal and state laws, policies and programs that save lives and reduce injuries. Please visit Advocates' web site at www.saferoads.org.


04/13/2004 - 15:21
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Debra Kubecka
Wednesday, April 28, 2004 202-408-1711 x15

SAFETY GROUP ALARMED BY LATEST
HIGHWAY FATALITIES DATA RELEASED TODAY BY U.S. DOT
43,220 PEOPLE KILLED - HIGHEST NUMBER SINCE 1990
URGENT NEED FOR CONGRESS TO PASS BI-PARTISAN SENATE HIGHWAY AND AUTO SAFETY PROVISIONS IN S. 1072

Washington, DC. April 28, 2004: Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates) calls on Congress to pass legislation this year to halt the climbing death toll on our highways that is starkly portrayed in the report released today by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Transportation. The preliminary data for 2003 highway crash fatalities and injuries shows that 43,220 motor vehicle deaths occurred in 2003, the highest number of fatalities since 1990 and the fourth year in a row that deaths have climbed. Last year, 42,815 people were killed on U.S. roads and highways -- the equivalent of a major airplane crash every other day of the week. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for children and young adults in the United States.

"Today's startling and distressing news that Americans are being killed in record numbers on our highways is a call to action for Congress to enact the highway and auto safety provisions in S.1072, passed by the U.S. Senate in February. The road to safety cannot be paved with promises by the auto and trucking industries and the federal government to do better. Instead, Congress needs to show leadership and pass legislation that moves the safety agenda forward," said Judith Lee Stone, President of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, reacting to the disturbing increase in deaths.

The preliminary 2003 report, based on data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) on highway deaths, shows that deaths in passenger cars decreased, but deaths in sport utility vehicles (SUVs) are climbing with no end in sight. SUV fatalities in rollover crashes increased a horrific 10 percent in a single year from 2,448 to 2,701. Additionally, fatalities due to large truck crashes increased to 4,942. The U.S. Department of Transportation is making no progress on meeting any of its goals to reduce truck-related crashes.

The Senate-passed safety bill requires NHTSA to move forward with reasonable deadlines on safety standards to address vehicle rollover prevention, crash ejection avoidance, side impact protection, roof crush strength, seat belt performance, and the crash compatibility of vehicles of mismatched size. Other provisions of S.1072 direct the federal highway and auto safety agencies to improve the safety of 15-passenger vans frequently used to transport children, church groups and sports teams as well as identify ways to address restricted visibility, particularly on SUVs, that can often lead to deadly backover incidents involving children, seniors and disabled persons. Other provisions in the Senate bill encourage states to pass booster seat laws and keep a lid on the growth of bigger more dangerous trucks on our streets and highways.

In recognition that existing federal government efforts are inadequate, the U.S. Senate, with strong bi-partisan support, adopted legislation that corrects problems and charts a safety course to reduce highway traffic fatalities and injuries. According to Stone, "This preliminary 2003 data confirms that Congress needs to step in and oversee NHTSA's agenda so that this deadly growing trend of more highway deaths every year can be stopped."

"If the aviation industry experienced over 800 deaths a week in airline crashes for just one month, much less four years running, a national emergency would be declared and the U.S. DOT and Congress would be scrambling frantically to address the public health crisis. The 2003 highway death toll is unacceptable by any measure. Administration excuses about more vehicles on the road or more miles driven is not an adequate response. The bottom line is that we are making no progress and standing still in the face of record highway deaths. The American public deserves leadership and action. S. 1072 contains reasonable, ready-made solutions to the tens of thousands of preventable fatalities occurring every year on our nation's roads," said Stone.

The FARS preliminary report also shows a dramatic 11 percent jump in motorcycle deaths in 2003 against a backdrop of efforts by state legislators to repeal all-rider motorcycle helmet laws. According to the FARS report, this is the sixth year in a row that motorcycle deaths have increased. Safety groups beat back attempts this year in several state legislatures including California and Maryland to repeal or severely weaken all-rider motorcycle helmet laws. Repeal efforts are still being considered by the state legislatures in Tennessee, Michigan and Missouri. Every state that has repealed or weakened its all-rider motorcycle helmet law has experienced an increase in deaths and injuries.

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Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates), an alliance of consumer, health and safety groups and insurance companies and agents working together to make America's roads safer, is actively involved at the federal and state levels to reduce the terrible tragedy of crashes to families across the nation. More information about the unfinished highway and auto safety agenda and the safety provisions in S.1072 can be found on Advocates' web site, www.saferoads.org.


04/28/2004 - 15:25
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Debra Kubecka
Thursday, May 20, 2004 202-408-1711 x15

Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety Hails
Tennessee State Legislature for Passage of
Lifesaving Seat Belt Bill

Washington, D.C., May 20, 2004. Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates) applauds the Tennessee legislature for passing a primary seat belt enforcement bill today that will save lives and reduce injuries for Tennessee citizens. If signed by Governor Bredesen, Tennessee will become the 21st state, along with the District of Columbia, to have such a law.

Judith Lee Stone, president of Advocates, said, “This is a great victory for the people of Tennessee. By adopting this crucial highway safety law, Tennessee legislators can lay claim to future lives saved and injuries avoided, not to speak of reducing costs to the state’s treasury. It’s a win-win law for everyone.”

States with the stronger primary seat belt enforcement law have a much higher seat belt use rate than states without such laws. Enactment of this law is expected to increase Tennessee’s seat belt use rate from 68 percent, which is well below the national average of 79 percent, to 80 percent or better.

Stone adds, “Advocates urges Governor Bredesen to sign this bill as it stands to save the state more than $181 million in economic costs associated with fatalities and injuries from unbelted passengers.”

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a primary seat belt law in Tennessee could save as many as 81 lives and prevent 886 serious injuries each year.

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Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates), an alliance of consumer, health and safety groups and insurance companies and agents working together to make America’s roads safer, is actively involved at the federal and state levels to reduce the terrible tragedy of crashes to families across the nation. More information about the unfinished highway and auto safety agenda can be found on Advocates’ web site, www.saferoads.org.


05/20/2004 - 15:33
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Debra Kubecka
May 25, 2004 (202) 408-1711 x15

MOTORCYCLE HELMETS MAKE $EN$E FOR ALL OF US
Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety Warns Governors
"There's No Free Ride -- Beware of Potential Taxpayer Costs of Helmet-Less Riders"


Washington, D.C., May 25, 2004 -- As Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month comes to a close, a review of motorcycling safety and state legislative considerations of motorcycle helmet laws paints a dismal picture, says Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates).

To date:

Only 19 states and the District of Columbia currently require all riders to use motorcycle helmets.

Of the remaining 31 states, 28 have laws on the books that require only riders under 18 or 21 to wear helmets, and 3 have no helmet laws at all. Age-specific laws are equivalent to no law at all because they are essentially unenforceable.

Since 1997, six (6) states have repealed their all-rider laws (Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Pennsylvania and Texas) resulting in documented increases in head injuries, deaths and health care costs.

Preliminary 2003 data from the national Fatal Analysis Reporting System (FARS) indicates motorcycle deaths have increased for 6 years in a row, up by 11% in 2003.

Since 1997, motorcycle deaths nationally have increased from 2,116 to 3,592, a 59% increase.

At a time when many states are struggling with Medicaid and other health care crises, an alarming trend has emerged as 15 of the 19 states with all-rider laws considered repealing them in the 2003/2004 legislative sessions.

Hospital studies in states that have recently repealed helmet laws show costs for treating brain-injured motorcyclists soared in the years immediately following repeal, and deaths increased by large percentages.


"Motorcyclists who believe their right to ride with a helmet is a matter of personal choice ignore the cost to taxpayers and governments of picking up the pieces, and the tab, when they crash," said Judith Lee Stone, president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates). "Governors should heed our warning that state coffers are drained by hidden costs of increasing motorcycle deaths and brain injuries due to lack of helmet use. Only about 50 percent of motorcycle crash victims have private health care insurance, placing the cost burden of treatment for the other 50 percent squarely on the taxpayer's ticket."

Of the states that attempted to repeal their all-rider laws this past year, most did not consider the publicly assisted health care costs associated with brain-injured riders and reported no fiscal impact in their analysis of the bills. "Only Maryland got it right in calculating the fiscal impact if its law were repealed," said Stone. Maryland's Department of Legislative Services estimated the cost to Medicaid could go up by $750,000 the first year and increase to almost a million dollars a year in ensuing years. The fiscal impact was a factor in the unsuccessful repeal attempt.

"It is imperative that states considering repeals factor in the public health care and social services costs that result from brain-injured riders," urged Stone. "There is a specific and dramatic tradeoff. We are grateful that Maryland figured it out, kept their all-rider law on the books, and set an example for other states."

Helmet-less riders sustain severe and traumatic brain injuries that often require costly long-term medical and rehabilitative treatment. "Clearly, public monies spent on head injuries sustained by riders without helmets means less for teachers or public safety," Stone added. "A rider's choice stops being personal when it ends up costing all of us."

Numerous studies show that the average hospital charges for helmet-less riders are significantly more than for helmeted riders, ranging from 10 percent to 200 percent higher. For victims of serious brain injury, acute hospital care might be only the first stage of a long and costly treatment program. Other costs include ongoing medical care, long-term nursing care, rehabilitative therapy, and lost wages.

The Texas Trauma Registry reported that in the first three months after the state repealed their all-rider law in 1997, the cost of treating a brain-injured motorcyclist went from $18,400 (in the same three months in 1996) to more than $32,000, and motorcycle deaths doubled by 2002.

States that considered but failed to repeal their all-rider helmet laws in the 2003/2004 legislative sessions were California, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia.

States with all-rider use laws experience use rates close to 100 percent. Those without such laws usually have use rates at 50% or lower.

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Please see the accompanying documents:

Fiscal Impact of Helmet Laws

Increase in Deaths after Helmet Law Repeals

Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates), an alliance of consumer, health and safety groups and insurance companies and agents working together to make America's roads safer, is actively involved at the federal and state levels to reduce the terrible tragedy of crashes to families across the nation. More information about the unfinished highway and auto safety agenda can be found on Advocates' web site, www.saferoads.org.

 


05/25/2004 - 15:30
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Debra Kubecka
June 18, 2004 (202) 408-1711 x15

Statement of Judith Lee Stone, President
Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates)

Special Commendation to Louisiana Legislature and Governor Blanco
For Reinstatement of Lifesaving All-rider Helmet Law

Washington, D.C., June 18, 2004. Yesterday the Louisiana legislature, led by Representative Clara Baudoin and Senator Joel Chaisson, stood up for public safety and fiscal responsibility when they reinstated Louisiana's all-rider motorcycle helmet law. By a large margin of 26 to 12, the legislators approved the measure after looking at the evidence since Louisiana repealed its all-rider law in 1999 and said, "enough."

Motorcycle fatalities in the state increased 100 percent after the all-rider law was repealed. Many legislators argued in favor of this life-saving law because of tragedies that they have heard of or personally experienced since the repeal.

Advocates also applauds Governor Blanco whose personal support and involvement was instrumental in the final outcome.

Pivotal arguments that led to the strong vote reinstating the law were focused on cost burdens to the state and its citizens when helmet use dropped and brain injuries rose after repeal of their all-rider law. Other states that have repealed their all-rider laws have experienced similar human and financial losses. Helmet-less riders sustain more severe and traumatic brain injuries that often require costly long-term medical and rehabilitative treatment. A key issue considered by the Louisiana House and Senate is that almost 50 percent of motorcyclists have no private health care insurance and the cost of treatment ends up on the taxpayer's ticket.

Citizens should be concerned about and fight for every penny at the state government level and they need to recognize the trade-offs where they exist. In the case of motorcycle helmet laws, money spent on head injuries means less money available for public safety or schools.

Louisiana has set the example we hope other states will follow. This is a huge victory for the citizens of Louisiana, who should be proud that their representatives and governor looked beyond the personal choice argument advocated by opponents of helmet laws. A rider's choice stops being personal when it ends up costing us all.

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Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates), an alliance of consumer, health and safety groups and insurance companies and agents working together to make America's roads safer, is actively involved at the federal and state levels to reduce the terrible tragedy of crashes to families across the nation. More information about the unfinished highway and auto safety agenda can be found on Advocates' web site, www.saferoads.org.


06/18/2004 - 15:35
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Debra Kubecka
Thursday, July 1, 2004 (202) 408-1711 x15

STATEMENT OF
JUDITH LEE STONE, PRESIDENT
ADVOCATES FOR HIGHWAY AND AUTO SAFETY (ADVOCATES)

ADVOCATES CONGRATULATES THE DELAWARE LEGISLATURE ON BECOMING
50th STATE TO PASS .08% BAC LAW

Uniform adoption of state primary seat belt laws and better safety features in vehicles next battleground for highway safety.

Washington, D.C. Advocates congratulates the Delaware legislature and Governor Ruth Ann Minner for passage of a .08% BAC per se law. The legislature worked late into the night to pass this legislation and it is now headed to Governor Minner, who made this legislation one of her top priorities this year. When the Governor signs this key safety law, Delaware will close the loop, with all 50 states and the District of Columbia now having .08% BAC per se laws.

The probability of having a crash rises dramatically when a driver reaches and exceeds 0.08% BAC. Through the persistent efforts of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, MADD, Congressional leaders and other safety organizations, in 2000, Congress passed and President Clinton signed a law requiring that states enact a .08% BAC per se law by October 1, 2003 or lose a percent of highway funding. Prior to this law, only 19 states and the District of Columbia had passed 0.08% BAC per se laws. In the four years since, 30 states have enacted .08%, making this law now uniform throughout the nation.

It is fitting that as the American public takes to the roads this Fourth of July, the final state has passed a life-saving drunk driving law bringing Delaware into compliance with the federal requirement. Every year, the Fourth of July is likely to have the highest number of deaths than any other day according to a recent report by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

The latest preliminary traffic fatality figures for 2003 show that there were 43,220 deaths, the highest number since 1990 and the fourth year in a row that highway deaths have climbed. This climbing death toll, combined with the success story represented by federal and state actions on .08, provides a blueprint for additional government leadership on other highway and auto safety measures. There is an unfinished safety agenda that is killing us.

Congress needs to pass a law similar to the national .08% BAC law that encourages all states to have a primary enforcement seat belt law. Currently, 29 states do not have such laws, and according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), an additional 9,200 deaths and 143,000 serious injuries could be prevented if all passengers were to use their seat belts. States with a primary enforcement seat belt law have higher usage rates. Lack of seat belt use costs society an additional $26 billion in medical care, lost productivity and other injury related costs annually.

Congress also needs to pass legislation currently being debated in a conference between House and Senate Members to make vehicles safer and provide every American family with life-saving safety features to protect them in crashes involving drunk drivers, aggressive drivers, and deadly vehicle rollover.

Clearly, Congress has an obligation to work on uniform primary enforcement seat belt laws and to improve motor vehicle safety standards to prevent needless tragedies and reduce the economic burden on taxpayers that result from preventable deaths and injuries.

Celebrating America's birthday this Fourth of July should not be a weekend of tragedy for American families, especially since we know what to do to prevent unnecessary traffic deaths and injuries.

I urge every driver on the road this holiday weekend to buckle-up, obey all traffic laws particularly speed limits, and don't drink and drive.

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Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety is an alliance of consumer, health, law enforcement and safety groups and insurance companies and agents working together to make America's roads safer. Founded in 1989, Advocates encourages the adoption of federal and state laws, policies and programs that save lives and reduce injuries. Please visit Advocates' web site at www.saferoads.org.


07/01/2004 - 15:38
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Bill Bronrott, 301-652-6016 or 202-270-4415
Monday, July 12, 2004 or Debra Kubecka, 202-408-1711 or 443-226-4744

AS TRAFFIC FATALITIES HIT 13-YEAR HIGH, NEW LOU HARRIS POLL SHOWS
NEAR UNANIMOUS PUBLIC SUPPORT FOR U.S. GOVERNMENT ACTION TO IMPROVE VEHICLE SAFETY STANDARDS TO STEM RISING TIDE OF DEATHS

Crash Survivor Activists Urge Congress to Adopt Auto Safety Provisions in S.1072,
Senate-Passed SAFETEA, to Curb Deadly Rollover Crashes, Occupant Ejections,
Vehicle Roof Crush, and Violent Mismatch of SUVs and Cars in Crashes

Average American Burdened with $792 Annual "Crash Tax" from Death and Injury Toll;
Safety Advocates Say Auto Safety Improvements Will Saves Lives and Taxpayer Dollars

 

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. (July 12, 2004) - With highway fatalities hitting a 13-year high and rollover crashes on the rise in 2003, nine of ten Americans say they support the federal government setting stronger uniform auto safety standards, according to a new Lou Harris Poll released today.

The Harris Poll found that 84 percent of the American public, including 8 of 10 SUV owners, favor the U.S. government requiring manufacturers to make all motor vehicles, including SUVs, more stable and less likely to roll over in crashes.

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death of Americans from ages 1 to 34. An estimated 43,220 people died in traffic crashes in 2003, the highest since 1990 and the fourth consecutive year that traffic deaths have risen. Deaths from vehicle rollover crashes also are on the rise, including a 10 percent jump in fatalities resulting from SUV rollover crashes last year.

The Harris "Survey of the Attitudes of the American People on Highway and Auto Safety" comes as Congress nears a vote on a long-awaited six-year $318 billion transportation bill known as the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, and Efficient Transportation Equity Act (SAFETEA). Vehicle safety provisions in SAFETEA passed the U.S. Senate in February, but were not included in the House bill. House and Senate conferees are meeting to work out differences in the two versions, and a decision could come before Congress goes on summer recess this month.

Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (www.saferoads.org) is urging Congress to stem the rising tide of highway deaths by adopting the Senate-passed motor vehicle safety provisions that would reduce deadly rollover crashes, occupant ejection, vehicle roof crush, the violent mismatch of crashes between SUVs and cars, improve child safety and at the same time provide consumers new vehicle safety rating sticker information at the point-of-purchase in dealership showrooms.

"The specific technologies to address these problems are available right now. They don't have to be invented," said Judith Lee Stone, President of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety. "These features should be standard equipment for all car buyers, not mere options for those who can afford it. The question is will Congress move forward or take yet another detour or U-turn? This is a matter of life or death for thousands, and Congress holds the key."

The annual economic cost of motor vehicle crashes is $230.6 billion, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Stone said that in effect "the average American is saddled with a 'Crash Tax' of $792 and the typical family of four is burdened with a 'Crash Tax' of $3,168 every year."

Rollover crashes resulted in 114,819 deaths in the U.S. from 1991 through 2002. The top ten states with the most rollover deaths during that time period were California (11,874), Texas (10,051), Florida (5,424), North Carolina (4,149), Missouri (4,104), Georgia (4,091), Tennessee (3,686), Alabama (3,511), Illinois (3,441), and Pennsylvania (3,293).

"The Harris Poll shows that the American public is way ahead of government in terms of wanting greater safety standards in their automobiles and their willingness to pay for it," said Stone.

Other key findings from Harris Poll:

  • 9 out of 10 of adults surveyed want the government to step in and set auto safety standards.

  • More than 90-percent of adults surveyed said they'd be willing to pay $200 to $300 more for safety improvements to new cars.

  • 83% of adults surveyed favor requiring stickers to be placed on the windshield of all new cars indicating the likelihood of that vehicle to roll over.

  • 55% of adults surveyed favor the government to require Electronic Stability Control (ESC) devices to be installed in new cars to help prevent rollover.

  • Only 31% are aware of a government website that contains customer information about how likely it is for various types of vehicles to roll over.

  • Improved Seatbelts--An 82% to 17% majority nationwide would like to see the government require improvements in seat belts to better protect passengers during rollovers.

  • Stronger Roof Standard--An 83% majority "wants the government to require a major upgrading of roof safety standards to withstand the weight of the car when it rolls over."

  • Among the public as a whole, 83% are concerned about severe crashes that occur when mismatched vehicles like SUVs collide with smaller vehicles. This is an increase over the 74% response in 1998.

  • 81% favor "stronger vehicle roofs so that windshields don't pop out of the frame so easily during a crash."

  • 81% support safer door locks and latches so that doors do not fly open in crashes.

  • 78% also favor "stronger side door window glass, like that in windshields, that won't crumble in a crash."

  • 70% support "side air bag curtains that drop from the vehicle roof and come between the person and the side door and window."

Survey respondents were asked how much more money they would be willing to pay for vehicle safety improvements. Back in 1996, when Harris asked the same question of the American public, 75 percent said they would pay the extra money. The 2004 survey found 91 percent willing to pay up to $300 more for safety improvements.

Also addressing today's National Press Club news announcement to urge Congress to approve the Senate-passed bill were:

Patrick Parker of Childress, Texas, who at the age of 37 became a quadriplegic from a rollover crash near his home on August 29, 2001. Parker was injured when he swerved and avoided a deer, and then while correcting, hit a second deer on the front corner of the truck. The truck rolled immediately upon impact, with the cab crushing and breaking his neck. Parker was accompanied by his wife Dena Parker.

Beverly Taylor of Raleigh, North Carolina, whose daughter Lauren Braddy, age 21 and a graduating senior at the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa died in an SUV rollover crash while on spring break in Florida with three of her friends and sorority sisters on March 28, 2004. Ms. Taylor was joined by Carrie Thornton, 20, of Marietta, Georgia, who was a sorority sister of the crash victims. She spoke of her friends, Lauren, Christin Lancaster of Tuscaloosa, who also died in the crash, and Hannah Jones of Dothan, Alabama, and Mary McGinness of Lookout Mountain, Georgia, who were injured.

Joan Claybrook, President of Public Citizen (www.citizen.org) and board member of Advocates said "On these critical auto safety matters the government has delayed for years, even decades. This has resulted in thousands being maimed and slaughtered on our highways. The American public is paying for these crashes with their lives and their wallets and they want government action now."

Another Advocates board member, Alan Maness, Federal Affairs Director and Associate General Counsel for State Farm Insurance Companies, said, "These child safety provisions will go a long way toward improving the auto safety environment for child passengers throughout the nation, and we call for their adoption."

On behalf of Louis Harris, the Peter Harris Research Group completed a total of 1003 telephone interviews with randomly selected adults aged 18 years and older between May 14, 2004 and June 3, 2004. At the 95 percent level of confidence, the margin of error for a representative, national cross-section survey of 1003 respondents is approximately ±3.1 percentage points.

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Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety is an alliance of consumer, health and safety groups and insurance companies and agents working together to make America's roads and vehicles safer. Advocates encourages the adoption of federal and state laws, policies and programs that we know will prevent death and disabling injuries. Additional information may be found on their web page at www.saferoads.org


07/12/2004 - 15:41
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Jerry Donaldson or
Friday, July 16, 2004 Henry Jasny at 202-408-1711

FEDERAL COURT RULES TRUCK DRIVER HEALTH
ESSENTIAL FOR HIGHWAY SAFETY

Federal Appeals Court Strikes Down Hours of Service
Rule for Truck Drivers

July 16, 2004. In a unanimous decision, a 3-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., today struck down the government hours of service (HOS) rule for truck drivers. Today's ruling is an important victory for highway safety and the public because the HOS rule - which limits the maximum hours of driving to ensure safety - allowed truck drivers to spend many more hours behind the wheel than under the previous rule, allowing drivers to become even more fatigued, and posing a safety danger to other motorists.

The decision came in a lawsuit brought by Public Citizen and a number of safety organizations, in which Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates) and the Insurance Institute for Highway safety filed amicus (friend of the court) briefs. The Court ruled for the plaintiffs on all counts, vacating the entire rule that was issued in April, 2003, and went into effect earlier this year.

In its opinion, the Court first ruled that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) failed to consider the effect that longer working and driving hours permitted by the rule would have on the health and physical condition of truck drivers. The linchpin of Advocates' brief was that the agency ignored its legal duty to consider the impact of the HOS rule on the health and physical condition of truck drivers. Advocates argued that Congress specifically made the health of truck drivers a mandatory factor that had to be taken into account. The court agreed with Advocates that the agency's rule was arbitrary and capricious since it failed to consider this fundamental statutory factor.

Judith L. Stone, President of Advocates, stated that "The court's action is a victory for protecting truck drivers from being forced to operate very long hours without adequate sleep and rest. The rule would undermine the health of truck drivers and degrade safety on our nation's highways."

The Court went on to criticize the FMCSA for its flawed rulemaking on all the issues raised by the plaintiffs. It explicitly rejected the agency's attempt to justify longer driving shifts and many more cumulative hours of driving over a 7- or 8-day tour of duty. It found the FMCSA's benefit-cost analysis to be dubious because it attempted to "explain away" the fundamental issue of how increased time spent working and driving under the rule could be just as safe as fewer hours of work.

The court also rejected the agency's resurrection of split sleeping time for drivers who try to sleep in their trucks as unsupported and irrational, especially in light of the agency's previous proposed rule in 2000 arguing that solo drivers needed a single, uninterrupted off-duty period each day to get sufficient opportunities for adequate sleep and rest.

Finally, the court roundly criticized the FMCSA for having no good reason for backing away from its previous proposal to require electronic on-board recorders (EOBRs), and from evading its statutory duty to evaluate seriously whether EOBRs should be required.

Stone added, "This ruling reassures us that public health and safety should always come first and must be the highest priority of government transportation officials."

# # #

Click HERE to view Federal Appeals Court's Decision


Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates), an alliance of consumer, health and safety groups and insurance companies and agents working together to make America's roads safer, is actively involved at the federal and state levels to reduce the terrible tragedy of crashes to families across the nation. More information about the unfinished highway and auto safety agenda can be found on Advocates' web site, www.saferoads.org.


07/16/2004 - 15:43
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Debra Kubecka
Tuesday, August 10, 2004 202-408-1711 x15

2003 HIGHWAY CRASH FATALITIES: NO REAL PROGRESS
FATALITY ANALYSIS REPORTING SYSTEM (FARS) SHOWS
2003 HIGHWAY DEATHS STILL AT RECORD LEVELS

Washington, DC: Final fatality figures for 2003 reported by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) today indicate a marginal decrease in overall fatalities over 2002. NHTSA reported that there were 42,643 traffic deaths in 2003, 577 fewer deaths than the agency had announced for 2003 in its early assessment last April. At the same time, NHTSA revised its fatality figures for 2002, increasing that total from 42,815 up to 43,005. The previously announced figures for both years indicated that traffic deaths were still on the rise.

Even according to the revised figures there were mixed results in the 2003 figures, with deaths in sport utility vehicles (SUVs) rising dramatically, traffic deaths in motorcycle crashes increasing for the 6th year in a row, and fatalities in crashes involving large trucks on the upswing.

"Today's news may mean that there was a slight downturn in overall traffic deaths in 2003, but Americans are still being killed in record numbers on our highways and the fact that nearly 43,000 died last year should send an urgent call to action for Congress to enact the highway and auto safety provisions in S.1072, passed by the U.S. Senate in February," said Judith Lee Stone, president of Advocates For Highway And Auto safety. "In this crucial legislation, Congress has in its hands the vaccines, the safety solutions, to prevent and treat a deadly and serious epidemic. What is needed now is leadership and political will to pass the legislation that will advance this safety agenda."

S.1072, the Senate version of the multi-year highway funding reauthorization legislation, requires NHTSA to move forward with reasonable deadlines on safety standards to address vehicle rollover prevention, crash ejection avoidance, side impact protection, roof crush strength, seat belt performance, and the crash compatibility of vehicles of mismatched size. Other provisions of S.1072 direct the federal highway and auto safety agencies to improve the safety of 15-passenger vans frequently used to transport children, church groups and sports teams as well as identify ways to address restricted rear visibility, particularly from inside SUVs, that can often lead to deadly backover incidents involving children, seniors and disabled persons. The Senate bill also contains provisions that encourage states to adopt booster seat laws and keep a lid on the growth of bigger more dangerous trucks on our streets and highways.

Congress is expected to resume deliberations on S.1072 in September when they return after Labor Day and continue the highway reauthorization conference committee negotiations. The House-passed version of the safety bill does not contain the key safety provisions supported by Advocates.

Stone added, "The data in this report does not mean that the trends of increasing deaths over the last decade or more has been reversed. It does send a signal of hope that the safety improvements enacted by Congress and adopted by government in recent years may be helping. Now we need to step up our efforts to ensure that the deadly trend of increased highway deaths every year will be permanently reversed. Congress has a golden opportunity to act and potentially save hundreds of lives by improving vehicle safety standards."

The FARS report also shows a dramatic 12 percent jump in motorcycle deaths in 2003 against a backdrop of efforts by state legislators to repeal all-rider motorcycle helmet laws. According to the FARS report, motorcycle deaths have increased six years in a row. Safety groups beat back attempts this year to repeal or severely weaken all-rider motorcycle helmet laws in several state legislatures, including California, Maryland, Tennessee, and Michigan. Louisiana, which had seen a 100 percent increase in motorcycle fatalities since repealing its all-rider helmet law in 1999, re-instated its helmet law in June. Every state that has repealed its all-rider motorcycle helmet law has experienced an increase in deaths and injuries.

Rollover deaths continued at high levels due to the ever-increasing proportion of light trucks in the passenger vehicle fleet. Overall, rollover deaths in SUVs jumped nearly 7 percent, from 2,471 in 2002 to 2,639 in 2003. The majority of people killed in SUVs, 6 of every 10, die in rollover crashes.

Additionally, fatalities due to large truck crashes increased from 4,939 (revised) in 2002 to 4,986 in 2003.

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for children and young adults in the United States, killing the equivalent of four major airline crashes every week, year in and year out.
"If the aviation industry experienced more than 800 deaths a week in airline crashes a national emergency would be declared and the U.S. DOT and Congress would be scrambling frantically to address the public health crisis," said Stone. "The 2003 highway death toll is unacceptable by any measure. Administration excuses about more vehicles on the road or more miles driven is not an adequate response. The bottom line is that we are making little progress in the face of record highway deaths. The American public deserves leadership and action. S. 1072 contains reasonable, ready-made measures to counter the tens of thousands of preventable fatalities occurring every year on our nation's roads."


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Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates), an alliance of consumer, health and safety groups and insurance companies and agents working together to make America's roads safer, is actively involved at the federal and state levels to reduce the terrible tragedy of crashes to families across the nation. More information about the unfinished highway and auto safety agenda and the safety provisions in S.1072 can be found on Advocates' web site, www.saferoads.org.


08/10/2004 - 15:44
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Debra Kubecka
Wednesday, August 25, 2004 202-408-1711 x15

USE OF CHILDREN DRIVING CORVETTE IN
LATEST GM AD CAMPAIGN OUTRAGES
AUTO SAFETY GROUPS WHO URGE ITS WITHDRAWAL

Car company stoops to new low showing young children behind the wheel, speeding, and using illegal, aggressive driving maneuvers to promote Corvette during Olympics


Washington, D.C.-- Several leading highway and auto safety groups sent a letter yesterday to G. Richard Wagoner, Chairman, General Motors Corporation (GM), protesting the widespread, primetime airing during the Olympic Games on network television of an advertisement for the company's 2005 Corvette.

"We write as highway safety professionals offended by General Motors' recent advertisement for the new Corvette ("A Boy's Dream") shown repeatedly during the Olympics this month," the attached letter said. "This ad is certainly among the most dangerous, anti-safety messages to be aired on national television in recent years."

The television ad shows what appears to be a 10- or 11-year-old boy, barely able to see over the steering wheel, driving wildly throughout a city, sometimes while airborne. Voiceover at the end of the ad calls it, "the official car of your dreams," as the young boy, holding his skateboard, stares at the parked Corvette. The ad can be viewed on Chevrolet's web page at http://www.chevrolet.com/pop/corvette/commercial.jsp.

"Ads glorifying speed and high performance are common enough these days, but this is one of the worst and most reprehensible produced by the auto industry," the letter continued. "Auto industry ads promoting these illegal behaviors, especially in sports and other muscle-type cars, are suspect because they target young people, and this ad unabashedly sinks to a new low. What was GM's motive to show underage children actually driving, on the one hand, and successfully attempting maneuvers through construction pipes and surreal, unrealistic, unsafe situations on the other?"

"No one in their right mind would condone the use of children in any ad promoting alcohol or tobacco products," said Judie Stone, president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety. "Underage kids driving cars is equally outrageous."

"This dream is a nightmare," said Janette Fennell, founder and president of Kids And Cars. "Kids And Cars' safety messages are very clear-never leave children alone in or around vehicles; and this commercial goes against everything we are trying to do to educate the public about these dangers. Our database is filled with incidents where young children think it is 'okay' to take an automobile for a drive and the outcome results in serious injuries and even death.

"As recently as today," she said, "The St. Louis Post Dispatch reported that a 5-year-old boy in East St. Louis, Illinois drove his uncle's Cadillac by himself for four blocks before he pulled over and hit a fence. A local police officer said, "we hear of 14- and 15-year olds taking off in cars, but it's getting younger and younger. Kids are watching television and when they're riding with you, they're watching everything you do."

The safety advocates urged GM to withdraw the ad immediately. They said that GM, in the past, was the only auto company to adopt specific, internal guidelines barring irresponsible advertising. They advised the GM chairman to "reinstate those waylaid principles and refrain from producing and showing similar advertisements. Lives literally depend upon it."

The latest Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) data released August 10, 2004, shows that crashes continue to kill over 42,500 people every year, as well as injuring and disabling 2.5 million more. Speeding has been shown to be a factor in at least one-third of all fatal crashes and costs society $40 billion a year.

###

[Complete text of letter attached]

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

August 24, 2004


G. Richard Wagoner, Jr.
Chairman and CEO
General Motors Corporation
General Motors Global Headquarters
300 Renaissance Center 482-C39-B50
Detroit, Michigan 48265-3000

Dear Mr. Wagoner:

We write as highway safety professionals offended by General Motors' recent advertisement for the new Corvette ("A Boy's Dream") shown repeatedly during the Olympic Games this month. This ad is certainly among the most dangerous, anti-safety messages to be aired on national television in recent years.

Ads glorifying speed and high performance are common enough these days, but this is one of the worst and most reprehensible examples produced by the auto industry. The use of child actors to promote dangerous and reckless driving, in a high-performance car going at rocket speeds, is preposterous and irresponsible on several levels. Auto industry ads promoting these illegal behaviors, especially in sports and other muscle-type cars are suspect because they target young people, and this ad unabashedly sinks to a new low. What was General Motors' motive to show young children actually driving, on the one hand, and successfully attempting life-threatening maneuvers through construction pipes and surreal, unrealistic, unsafe situations on the other? This dream is a nightmare.

As you know, many children - as young as five or six years old -- actually take their parents' car keys and drive cars out the driveway because they think they can drive, mimicking others they have seen. Unfortunately, it happens regularly all across the nation and the sad result is often serious injury, even death. Promoting illegal and risky behavior in ads viewed by millions of families (especially young males) watching the Olympics is egregious corporate behavior. It is doubtful that General Motors would condone the beer industry showing a "dream sequence" of ten-year-old children having an after-school "kegger."

We urge you to withdraw this ad immediately. In past years, General Motors was the only auto company to adopt internal company guidelines barring such ads. We urge you to review and reinstate those waylaid principles and refrain from producing and showing similar advertisements. Lives literally depend upon it.

Sincerely,


Judith Lee Stone, President
Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety

Janette Fennell, Founder and President
Kids And Cars

Jack Gillis, Director of Public Affairs
Consumer Federation of America

Clarence Ditlow, Executive Director
Center for Auto Safety

Andrew McGuire, Executive Director
Trauma Foundation

Sally Greenberg, Senior Product Safety Counsel
Consumers Union

Joan Claybrook, President
Public Citizen


Cc: Jeff Runge, Administrator
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
U.S. Department of Transportation


08/25/2004 - 15:47
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Debra Kubecka
September 17, 2004 202-408-1711 or 443-226-4744

STATEMENT OF
JUDITH LEE STONE, PRESIDENT
ADVOCATES FOR HIGHWAY AND AUTO SAFETY

CONGRESS COULD INCREASE SEAT BELT USE MORE RAPIDLY BY PASSING A NATIONAL SEAT BELT LAW

Washington, D.C. While we welcome today's news about an increase to 80% in national seat belt use, much more needs to be and can be done to push seat belt use over the 90 percentile mark. The sad fact is that 29 states still do not allow primary enforcement of their seat belt laws, and states that do have the stronger law demonstrate higher average belt use. Widespread law enforcement efforts in the states to date have resulted in only incremental increases, which by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) own definition are statistically insignificant.

We have known for 20 years that secondary enforcement provisions in belt use laws make it difficult for a state to enforce the law to its fullest extent, but many state legislatures are reluctant to change their belt laws to primary enforcement. NHTSA's 2004 survey shows a huge gap in seat belt use from a low of 74 percent in states without primary, to an overall average of 84 percent in states with primary.

It is clear from numerous studies that the only way to effectively and more rapidly increase seat belt use in any state is to implement a primary enforcement seat belt law. Congress has an excellent opportunity to achieve this through the Warner-Clinton National Seatbelt legislation, which would encourage states to implement primary laws within three years, with incentives first, then under threat of sanctions if necessary. This same strategy was used effectively with the .08% Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) law that all 50 states now have as of this year. Given the improved outcome in saving lives and in saving economic costs associated with death and injury from lack of seat belt use, the Warner-Clinton legislation should be given top priority by the Administration.

While 80 percent seat belt use may seem high, still over half of those killed in motor vehicle crashes were not using seat belts. The 2003 Fatality Analysis Reporting Survey showed that 56 percent of people who died in motor vehicles were not wearing seatbelts and, worse, nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of 16 to 20 year olds killed were unbelted.

It is important to point out that while seat belt use is critical to improving safety, many seat belts currently installed in motor vehicles do not fully protect occupants in rollover crashes that cause roofs to crush in. Again, Congress has an opportunity to act-safety provisions currently being considered in a conference committee for the reauthorization of the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, and Efficient Transportation Equity Act (SAFETEA) would improve roof crush standards and seat belt performance for these and all other types of crashes.

As the 108th Congress comes to a close, time is running out to save countless more lives by adopting the long overdue safety provisions in Title IV of SAFETEA, as well as a national primary enforcement seat belt law. Support for these lifesaving measures in Congress from the Bush Administration would help move this lifesaving agenda forward and spare thousands of families unnecessary grief due to lost lives and debilitating injuries.

-30-

Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates), an alliance of consumer, health and safety groups and insurance companies and agents working together to make America's roads safer, is actively involved at the federal and state levels to reduce the terrible tragedy of crashes to families across the nation.


09/17/2004 - 15:48
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Debra Kubecka
September 17, 2004 202-408-1711 or 443-226-4744

STATEMENT OF
JUDITH LEE STONE, PRESIDENT
ADVOCATES FOR HIGHWAY AND AUTO SAFETY

CONGRESS COULD INCREASE SEAT BELT USE MORE RAPIDLY BY PASSING A NATIONAL SEAT BELT LAW

Washington, D.C. While we welcome today's news about an increase to 80% in national seat belt use, much more needs to be and can be done to push seat belt use over the 90 percentile mark. The sad fact is that 29 states still do not allow primary enforcement of their seat belt laws, and states that do have the stronger law demonstrate higher average belt use. Widespread law enforcement efforts in the states to date have resulted in only incremental increases, which by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) own definition are statistically insignificant.

We have known for 20 years that secondary enforcement provisions in belt use laws make it difficult for a state to enforce the law to its fullest extent, but many state legislatures are reluctant to change their belt laws to primary enforcement. NHTSA's 2004 survey shows a huge gap in seat belt use from a low of 74 percent in states without primary, to an overall average of 84 percent in states with primary.

It is clear from numerous studies that the only way to effectively and more rapidly increase seat belt use in any state is to implement a primary enforcement seat belt law. Congress has an excellent opportunity to achieve this through the Warner-Clinton National Seatbelt legislation, which would encourage states to implement primary laws within three years, with incentives first, then under threat of sanctions if necessary. This same strategy was used effectively with the .08% Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) law that all 50 states now have as of this year. Given the improved outcome in saving lives and in saving economic costs associated with death and injury from lack of seat belt use, the Warner-Clinton legislation should be given top priority by the Administration.

While 80 percent seat belt use may seem high, still over half of those killed in motor vehicle crashes were not using seat belts. The 2003 Fatality Analysis Reporting Survey showed that 56 percent of people who died in motor vehicles were not wearing seatbelts and, worse, nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of 16 to 20 year olds killed were unbelted.

It is important to point out that while seat belt use is critical to improving safety, many seat belts currently installed in motor vehicles do not fully protect occupants in rollover crashes that cause roofs to crush in. Again, Congress has an opportunity to act-safety provisions currently being considered in a conference committee for the reauthorization of the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, and Efficient Transportation Equity Act (SAFETEA) would improve roof crush standards and seat belt performance for these and all other types of crashes.

As the 108th Congress comes to a close, time is running out to save countless more lives by adopting the long overdue safety provisions in Title IV of SAFETEA, as well as a national primary enforcement seat belt law. Support for these lifesaving measures in Congress from the Bush Administration would help move this lifesaving agenda forward and spare thousands of families unnecessary grief due to lost lives and debilitating injuries.

-30-

Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates), an alliance of consumer, health and safety groups and insurance companies and agents working together to make America's roads safer, is actively involved at the federal and state levels to reduce the terrible tragedy of crashes to families across the nation.


09/17/2004 - 15:51
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Debra Kubecka
September 22, 2004 202-408-1711 or 443-226-4744

Statement of Jackie Gillan, Vice President
Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety

on Today's Overwhelming House Vote in Favor of Rep. Olver's Amendment Preventing Unsafe Foreign Trucks from Driving on U.S. Highways


Washington, D.C. -- Today's overwhelming bi-partisan vote (339 to 70) in support of Rep. John Olver's (D-MA) amendment to H.R.5025, the fiscal year 2005 appropriations bill for the Departments of Transportation and Treasury is a significant victory for highway safety. The U.S. Department of Transportation has proposed exempting some foreign trucks and buses from meeting U.S. safety standards in violation of the law. The vote by the House was a resounding rebuke of any government action to ignore or circumvent current safety laws.

To ensure traffic safety, Congress in the 1966 National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act required that all vehicles, including cars, trucks and buses, sold or used in the U.S. must meet U.S. safety standards applicable when the vehicle was built. Trucks and buses built in other countries that are imported or driven into the U.S. are subject to the same law and requirements.

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) proposes giving some foreign trucks and buses a two-year grace period from meeting this federal law, while at the same time requiring all U.S. built trucks and buses to comply.

Advocates congratulates Rep. Olver (D-MA) for his leadership on the House floor and every Member of Congress who voted to ensure that all trucks and buses, domestic or foreign, meet the same safety requirements. We cannot take a two-year "holiday" from safety.

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Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates), an alliance of consumer, health and safety groups and insurance companies and agents working together to make America's roads safer, is actively involved at the federal and state levels to reduce the terrible tragedy of crashes to families across the nation.


09/22/2004 - 15:53
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Jackie Gillan (202) 408-1711
Oct. 4, 2004 Debra Kubecka(202) 408-1711

3 Million Traffic Deaths and Growing

Three million people died in traffic crashes in the U.S. in the first century of auto travel, from 1899 to 1998. Beginning with the first reported traffic victim in 1899, it took just over 50 years for the first one million people to die. Tragically, one million more people have been killed in traffic crashes during each quarter century since. At the current level of reported annual fatalities, the U.S. will suffer 4 million traffic deaths in this century. Increasing seat belt use, designing safer vehicles to prevent rollovers and roof crush, reducing impaired driving and improving truck safety would all reap tremendous lifesaving benefits. We know what needs to be done to reverse this trend but we lack leadership from our elected and government officials. As the Supreme Court stated in 1957, "the increasing slaughter on our highways, most of which should be avoidable, now reaches the astounding figures only heard of on the battlefield." Breithaupt v. Abram, 352 U.S. 432 (1957).

Click here to view a chart of traffic fatalities from 1899-2004


10/04/2004 - 15:55
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Debra Kubecka - 202-408-1711 x15
Thursday, October 21, 2004 Janette Fennell - 913-327-0013

POWER WINDOW RULE CHALLENGED BY CONSUMER, AUTO AND CHILD SAFETY GROUPS

THE NATIONAL HIGHWAY TRAFFIC SAFETY ADMINISTRATION (NHTSA) NEEDS TO "GET IT RIGHT" AND IMPROVE ITS RECENT FINAL RULE TO PROTECT ALL CHILDREN

Washington, D.C., October 21, 2004. Eleven major consumer, auto and child safety groups (Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, KIDS AND CARS, Center for Auto Safety, Consumer Federation of America, Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety, Consumers Union, 4RKidsSake, Kids in Cars, Public Citizen, Trauma Foundation, and the Zoie Foundation) today petitioned the National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) to reconsider its final rule on power windows. The Petitioners assert that NHTSA only addressed part of the risk to children from power window switch activation and didn't take the actions necessary to stop deaths and injuries. This rule misleads consumers to believe that the problem of serious injury and death to children caught in power windows has been solved. It hasn't.

Every year several children are killed and hundreds more are injured when power windows close on the necks, heads, arms, and hands of unsuspecting children. All too often, children are left alone in vehicles with power windows that can still be operated. The result is that many are severely injured or killed when they trigger the power switch that closes a power window on themselves or another child, or an adult unwittingly closes the window on a child. This happens in three distinct ways: 1) when a child leans on or bumps against a rocker or toggle switch; 2) when a child who plays with a switch, pushes or pulls up on a power window switch; or, 3) when adults unintentionally close a power window on a child. The final rule minimally addresses only the first situation, accidental closings caused by a child who leans on a rocker or toggle switch.

The tragic result is that the new rule will not prevent all accidental or unintentional power window closings that cause serious injuries or deaths. Only power window auto-reverse systems can put an end to these tragic deaths and injuries.

Sadly, NHTSA's final rule does not require automatic reverse technology for all new passenger vehicles. Automatic reverse technology stops a power window from closing when a child is in harm's way. This requirement should be standard just like the federal government's mandated safety requirement on all garage doors that close automatically - they must reverse to prevent deaths and injuries. Power window auto reverse technology is included as standard equipment on 80% of European and many Japanese vehicles.

Safety groups urge NHTSA to provide a solution that protects all children in all circumstances when they are exposed to this danger. In a similar situation, the agency required fail-safe technology to be built into advanced airbags to protect children sitting in the front seat even though parents were warned to place children in the rear seats of their vehicles. The power window rule should be no different -- the safety fix is inexpensive, available, and already in use. Consumer groups estimate that installing automatic reverse technology would cost as little as $50 for four windows even before further cost reductions are achieved through mass production.

NHTSA's final rule also failed to ban unsafe rocker or toggle switches. The new part of the regulation only requires that after 2008 these types of dangerous switches must be recessed to reduce accidental actuation. NHTSA also weakened the final rule from its earlier, proposed version by enlarging the size of the test device to measure whether a switch can be accidentally engaged. That test device supposedly represents the size of a child's knee, but it clearly will not prevent accidental closings when children activate these switches with their elbows, fingers, or toes.
Founder and president of Kids And Cars, Janette Fennell, stated, "Last month NHTSA issued a media advisory stating that the agency was going to "announce a significant new life-saving protection for children". Unfortunately, after reviewing the final NHTSA rule about power windows, there was little that was significant, new, or lifesaving for America's children. I was deeply disappointed that despite the agency's fanfare they did not even ban rocker or toggle switches or require automatic reverse technology. NHTSA stopped far short of adequately solving the problem, and this decision will leave millions of children at risk."
The underlying power window safety standard relies on a flawed premise that there will always be adult supervision in or near the vehicle when the key is in the ignition. All too often, adults leave children alone in the vehicle with the key in the ignition and the power windows still operative. Although NHTSA acknowledges that this occurs, it did not re-evaluate and remove the flawed premise of the standard in the final rule.

"NHTSA's rule does not reflect real-world behavior where children are often left unattended in the vehicle and an adult is not immediately available to respond quickly when a child gets trapped because of a power window closing," said Judie Stone, president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety. "Even NHTSA admits that the problem of child injuries and deaths in power window closures will persist because of the flaws in the rule. It's like giving a child only half a dose of a vaccine and withholding the rest."

"Parents make mistakes -- but children should not have to pay for those mistakes with their lives. Auto reverse technology would cost even less than a new tire. Surely the life of a child is worth that," said Fennell.

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Click here for the complete petition and fact sheet.


10/21/2004 - 15:58
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Debra Kubecka
November 23, 2004 202-408-1711 or 443-226-4744

Congress Enacts Olver Amendment;
Prevents Unsafe Foreign Trucks from Driving on U.S. Highways

Level Safety Playing Field for All Trucks and Buses
No Foreign Exceptions to Safety Law


Washington, D.C., November 23, 2004.
Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates) applauded the passage this past weekend of the Olver Amendment on truck and bus safety as part of the omnibus appropriations legislation for Fiscal Year 2005. The amendment prohibits the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), an agency in the U.S. Department of Transportation, from exempting foreign trucks and buses from U.S. safety law. The FMCSA had proposed allowing truck operators to drive trucks and buses across the border into the U.S. even if the vehicles were not manufactured to U.S. safety standards. Their proposal did not exempt trucks and buses built in the U.S.

The provision, named for its sponsor on the House appropriations committee, Rep. John Olver (D-MA), was passed by an overwhelming bi-partisan vote (339 to 70) in the House and adopted in conference. Despite opposition from the Administration, the Olver safety amendment was retained in the final bill.

To ensure traffic safety, Congress in the 1966 National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act required that all vehicles, including cars, trucks and buses sold or used in the U.S. must meet U.S. safety standards applicable when the vehicle was built. Trucks and buses built in other countries that are imported or driven into the U.S. are subject to the same law and requirements.

The FMCSA proposed giving foreign trucks and buses a two-year grace period from this federal safety law, while at the same time requiring all U.S. built trucks and buses to comply. Enactment of the amendment prevents the agency from issuing this proposal.

"We cannot take a two-year "holiday" from safety," said Jackie Gillan, vice president of Advocates. "Opening our borders to foreign trucks should not mean we compromise safety."


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Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates), an alliance of consumer, health and safety groups and insurance companies and agents working together to make America's roads safer, is actively involved at the federal and state levels to reduce the terrible tragedy of crashes to families across the nation.


11/23/2004 - 16:00
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Debra Annand
November 30, 2004 202-408-1711 or 443-226-4744

National Black Caucus of State Legislators (NBCSL) Recognized For Highway Safety Leadership

Washington, D.C., November 30, 2004. Today, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety presented its "Highway Safety Leader" award to the National Black Caucus of State Legislators (NBCSL) for its support of the National Highway Safety Act of 2003 (S. 1993) sponsored by U.S. Senators John Warner (R-VA) and Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY). The award was presented by Advocates' vice president, Jackie Gillan, at NBCSL's annual conference in Philadelphia.

S. 1993 urges each state to enact a primary enforcement seat belt law or raise its seat belt use rate to 90 percent. If a state fails to accomplish one or the other within three years, they face the loss of two percent of their federal highway funding, growing to four percent in subsequent years. The U.S. Senate failed to enact S.1993 earlier this year, falling short by only 9 votes.

Primary enforcement of seat belt laws allows police officers to enforce seat belt laws more effectively. Seat belt use is 10 to 15 percent higher in states with primary enforcement. In 2004, Tennessee was the only state to adopt a primary enforcement seat belt law, raising the number of states with such provisions to only 21, plus the District of Columbia.

Upon presenting Advocates' award, Gillan read a congratulatory letter addressed to NBCSL's president, Mary H. Coleman (MS), and the association's transportation committee chair, Steve Jones (AR), from Senators Warner and Clinton. The U.S. Senators extended their deep appreciation and thanked both state officials "for your dedication and hard work on behalf of this lifesaving legislation…..The National Black Caucus of State Legislators was an important and crucial partner in supporting enactment of federal legislation encouraging and rewarding state adoption of primary enforcement seat belt laws…..We will be back in the next Congress with similar legislation and we hope you will stand with us again."

Meharry Medical College research shows that there is a lower incidence of seat belt use among African Americans, and primary enforcement seat belt laws are effective in increasing such belt use rates. Several studies have shown that seat belt use among African Americans is significantly higher in primary enforcement states compared to those with secondary enforcement provisions in their laws. Another Meharry study reports that if all African Americans used seat belts, 26,000 injuries would be prevented annually and 1,300 lives and $2.6 billion in societal costs would be saved each year.

The Warner-Clinton legislation would lead to more rapid adoption of primary enforcement seat belt laws in the remaining 29 states. A similar approach was enacted by Congress in 2000 to encourage states to pass .08% blood alcohol content (BAC) laws, and as of 2004, all 50 states and the District of Columbia have done so.


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Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates), an alliance of consumer, health and safety groups and insurance companies and agents working together to make America's roads safer, is actively involved at the federal and state levels to reduce the terrible tragedy of crashes to families across the nation.


11/30/2004 - 16:01
Media Alert CONTACT: Debra Kubecka, 202-408-1711 or 443-226-4744
Wednesday, December 15, 2004 or Bill Bronrott, 301-652-6016 or 202-270-4415

ADVOCATES FOR HIGHWAY AND AUTO SAFETY (ADVOCATES) SAYS MANY STATES STILL MISSING BASIC HIGHWAY SAFETY LAWS

2nd Annual Roadmap Report To Give States A Catalyst For Action in 2005

Harris Poll Shows Strong Public Support For State Action

 

 

Washington, D.C., December 16, 2004. Advocates released its 2nd annual highway safety report, 2005 Roadmap to State Highway Safety Laws-Roadwork Ahead, the Unfinished Safety Agenda, that rates each state and D.C. on adoption of basic highway safety laws. The Report shows that seven states are dangerously lagging behind and 30 have serious gaps in adoption of Advocates' recommended basic highway safety laws. Only 13 states and D.C. have made significant progress in advancing basic highway safety laws. These laws include primary enforcement of seat belt laws, all-rider motorcycle helmet laws, child booster seat laws, teen driving laws, and impaired driving laws. A Lou Harris poll, released along with the Roadmap Report, shows strong public support for adoption of state laws that improve overall highway safety.

Judie Stone, president of Advocates said, "This past year we saw little improvement made by the states since our last Report in adopting highway safety laws that help reduce the number of deaths and injuries on our roadways. One state adopted a primary enforcement seat belt law in 2004, leaving 29 states still without this basic law. We hope this report will serve as a 'call to action' for states to accelerate adoption of these essential safety laws."

"Amidst the confusion of grief, one thing stands clear: teenage driving laws need to protect
teenagers." It's a bit on the obvious side, but I think it implies that current policy is not doing enough to safeguard our families," said Veronica Betancourt, sister of Alicia Betancourt, 16, who died as a passenger in a vehicle driven by a teenage in September of this year in Montgomery County, Maryland.

The State Roadmap Report Breakdown, along with Harris Poll Results:

29 states do not have primary enforcement seat belt laws for adults. Advocates recommends that all states adopt primary enforcement of seat belt laws and that federal legislation may be needed to accelerate the progress, just as it did for the 21 drinking age and for .08 percent blood alcohol concentration (BAC). In 2003, 56 percent of people who died in motor vehicle crashes were unbelted. When states pass primary enforcement seat belt laws, seat belt use increases by 10 to 15 percentage points. Tennessee was the only state in 2004 to pass a primary enforcement law. A sound majority of 80 percent said that seat belt enforcement should be treated like any other traffic safety law, meaning a police officer should be allowed to ticket motorists just for not wearing their seat belts.

30 states do not have all-rider motorcycle helmet laws. Numerous studies have that all-rider helmet laws increase helmet use to nearly 100 percent, while states without this law have use rates below 50 percent. States that have repealed their all-rider laws have seen a significant increase in deaths. Louisiana reinstated its all-rider helmet law in 2004 after seeing a 100 percent increase in motorcycle rider deaths since it repealed its law in 1999. According to the Harris Poll, 82 percent of Americans support all-rider helmet laws.

42 states do not have Advocates' recommended optimal booster seat law protection for children ages 4 to 8. A recent National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) report showed that 78 percent of children in this age group are inappropriately restrained, and the risks of injury from not being in a booster seat increase dramatically. While a total of 28 states and D.C. have booster seat laws, only eight states have Advocates' recommended optimal law covering children 4 to 8. In 2004, only six states passed booster seat laws and only two of those were the recommended optimal law. Again, the Harris poll showed strong public support of booster seat laws-84 percent feel that all states should adopt booster seat laws for children ages 4 to 8.

No state has an Advocates' recommended optimal teen Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) program. Many states are missing key provisions of Advocates' optimal GDL program, either by having a weak provision or by not having any law. In fact, only six new GDL laws were passed this past year by four states. A Harris poll conducted for Advocates in 2001 showed 92 percent supported a six-month holding period, 95 percent supported at least 30 to 50 hours of supervised driving, and 74 percent supported passenger and nighttime driving restrictions.

States were rated on seven basic impaired driving laws. This past year, all 50 states came into compliance with federal law for .08 percent blood alcohol concentration (BAC) when 5 states passed their .08 percent BAC laws. However, only 8 states adopted a total of 9 of the basic impaired driving laws recommended by Advocates. According to the Harris Poll, 87 percent believe that more attention should be given to drunk driving. In 2003, 40 percent of deaths on our highways involved drunk driving.

"As a former emergency department physician, I have witnessed firsthand the emotional toll of vehicle crashes on individuals and families, said Georges C. Benjamin, MD, FACP, executive director of the American Public Health Association and board member of Advocates. Motor vehicle trauma is one of the nation's foremost preventable public health problems, and we must support measures that protect drivers, passengers and pedestrians, such as laws requiring seat belt use, This report holds states accountable for enacting laws that promote safety and prevent tragedy on our nation's highways and roadways,"

With the majority of state legislatures opening their 2005 sessions in January, Advocates sent the report to the nation's Governors and urged them to accelerate adoption of these basic highway safety laws to ensure that all 14 laws are uniformly in effect across the nation.

"We have proven vaccines in the form of tougher and better highway safety laws, said Dale Hammond, President and COO, Kemper Auto & Home Group, Inc. (A Unitrin Company) and Insurance Co-Chair of Advocates. These laws not only save lives, but can help reduce the horrific costs associated with more than 6 million motor vehicle crashes that occurred this past year, with a price tag of more than $230 billion a year."

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for Americans ages 2 to 33. In 2003 alone, 6.3 million traffic crashes resulted in 42,653 deaths and 3 million injuries.

Advocates' report divides the 14 model laws into four issue categories. In each category, states are given one of three ratings based on how many optimal laws they have: Green (Good); Yellow (Caution); and Red (Danger). Placement in one of the three sections was based solely on whether or not a state has adopted a law as defined in the report, and not on any evaluation of a state's highway safety education-enforcement program or on fatality rates. An overall rating was given The four issue sections and corresponding laws are:

1. Adult Occupant Protection (2 laws): Primary enforcement seat belt law and all-rider motorcycle helmet law.
2. Child Passenger Safety (1 law): Child booster seat law for ages 4 to 8.
3. Teen Driving -- Optimal Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) Program Provisions (4 laws):
Learner's Stage: 6-Month Holding Period and 30-50 Hours Supervised Driving
Intermediate Stage: Nighttime Driving Restriction and Passenger Restriction
4. Impaired Driving (7 laws): Repeat offender, open container, high BAC, mandatory BAC testing for drivers killed in fatal crashes, mandatory BAC testing for drivers who survive fatal crashes, sobriety checkpoints, and child endangerment laws.

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Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates), an alliance of consumer, health and safety groups and insurance companies and agents working together to make America's roads safer, is actively involved at the federal and state levels to reduce the terrible tragedy of crashes to families across the nation.


12/15/2004 - 16:04
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Debra Kubecka Annand
Thursday, December 16, 2004 202-408-1711

AS RECORD NUMBER OF FAMILIES TAKE TO THE HIGHWAYS THIS HOLIDAY SEASON
NEW REPORT SHOWS SHOCKING DISPARITY AMONG STATES IN
BASIC HIGHWAY SAFETY LAWS

States' Mediocre Ratings in 2nd Annual Roadmap Is a Call to Action

Harris Poll Shows Strong Public Support For State Action Now

 

 

Washington, D.C. Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates) released its 2nd annual highway safety report, 2005 Roadmap to State Highway Safety Laws-Roadwork Ahead, the Unfinished Safety Agenda, that rates each state and the District of Columbia (DC) on adoption of 14 basic highway safety laws. Not one state or DC has all 14 basic highway safety laws. In the report, only 13 states-Alabama, California, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Tennessee, Washington-and DC got the highest rating for having made progress in advancing key laws to curb drunk driving, encourage seat belt and motorcycle helmet use, require booster seats for young children and protect new teen drivers. Seven states are dangerously lagging behind, with less than half of the 14 basic highway safety laws. Alaska, Arkansas, Montana, Rhode Island, South Dakota, West Virginia, and Wyoming were given the lowest rating in the report. And the other 30 states have serious gaps in adoption of Advocates' recommended basic highway safety laws. Despite the slow progress of most states, a Lou Harris poll, released along with the Roadmap Report, shows strong public support for adoption of state laws that improve overall highway safety.

Judie Stone, president of Advocates said, "In 2004, we saw little improvement made among the states in adopting highway safety laws that reduce the number of deaths and injuries. Only one state adopted a primary enforcement seat belt law this year. At this rate it will be 2033 before every state protects their citizens with an effective seat belt law. Equally disturbing is that too many teens are dying in crashes and too few states have adequate laws to protect them. Governors and state legislators should use this report as a 'call to action' and quit delaying legislative adoption. We need less hand wringing and more bill signings."

"Amidst the confusion of grief, one thing stands clear, effective teenage driving laws need to be passed to protect teenagers," said Veronica Betancourt, sister of Alicia Betancourt, 16, who died as a passenger in a vehicle driven by a teenager in September of this year in Montgomery County, Maryland. "It's a bit on the obvious side, but I think current laws are not doing enough to safeguard our families."

A summary of the State Roadmap Report and Lou Harris Poll results show:

29 states do not have primary enforcement seat belt laws for adults. When states pass primary enforcement seat belt laws, seat belt use increases by 10 to 15 percentage points. Tennessee was the only state in 2004 to pass a primary enforcement law. The Harris poll shows 80 percent of Americans say that seat belt enforcement should be treated like any other traffic safety law, meaning a police officer should be allowed to ticket motorists just for not wearing their seat belts.

30 states still need all-rider motorcycle helmet laws. Louisiana reinstated its all-rider helmet law in 2004 after experiencing a 100 percent increase in motorcycle rider deaths since it repealed its law in 1999. Numerous states considered repealing existing all-rider helmet laws in 2004. According to the Harris Poll, 82 percent of Americans support all-rider helmet laws.

42 states need Advocates' recommended optimal booster seat law protection for children ages 4 to 8. While a total of 28 states and D.C. have booster seat laws, only eight states meet Advocates' criteria and protect children ages 4 to 8-most cover only to age 6 or 7. In 2004, six states passed booster seat laws with only two including children up to age 8. The Harris poll showed 84% of the public support state enactment of booster seat laws for children ages 4 to 8.

No state meets Advocates' recommended optimal teen Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) program with four key provisions, including 30-50 hours of supervisions and restrictions on the number of teen passengers. Only six new GDL laws were adopted in four states in 2004.

States were rated on seven basic impaired driving laws. This past year, all 50 states came into compliance with federal law for .08 percent blood alcohol concentration (BAC) when 5 states passed their .08 percent BAC laws. However, only 8 states acted on some of the basic impaired driving laws recommended by Advocates. According to the Harris Poll, 87 percent believe that more attention should be given to drunk driving. In 2003, 40 percent of highway deaths involved alcohol.

"As a former emergency department physician, I have witnessed firsthand the emotional toll of vehicle crashes on individuals and families", said Georges C. Benjamin, MD, FACP, executive director of the American Public Health Association. "Each year nearly 43,000 people die on our highways and 3 million more are injured. By any measure this is a public health epidemic and mostly preventable. It is time for Governors and state legislators to make enactment of these laws a priority."

With most state legislatures convening in January, Advocates wrote to every Governor with a link to the report and urged each of them to make highway safety legislation a top priority.

Each year motor vehicle crashes cost society more than $230 billion, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, imposing a "crash tax" of $792 on every man, woman and child. "One of the most effective strategies in holding down insurance costs is loss prevention," said Dale Hammond, President and COO, Kemper Auto & Home Group, Inc. (A Unitrin Company) and Insurance Co-Chair of Advocates. "Highway safety laws that curb drunk driving, require seat belt and motorcycle helmet use, and protect teen drivers will save lives and save taxpayer dollars."

Advocates' report divides the 14 laws into four issue categories. In each category, states are given one of three ratings based on how many optimal laws they have: Green (Good); Yellow (Caution); and Red (Danger).

Jack Gillis, Director of Public Affairs for the Consumer Federation of America said, "The Lou Harris poll shows once again that the public is ahead of elected leaders in supporting highway safety measures. Public support is strong but political will is weak."

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Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety is an alliance of consumer, health and safety groups and insurance companies and agents working together to make America's roads and vehicles safer. Advocates encourages the adoption of federal and state laws, policies and programs that we know will prevent death and disabling injuries.


12/16/2004 - 16:06

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