Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety

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January 5, 2006 (202) 408-1711 x27

State Legislatures are Parking Lots for Lifesaving Traffic Safety Laws
New Study Finds Most States Still Lack Basic Occupant Protection, Drunk Driving, Child Safety and Teen Driving Laws

Progress Slow in Curbing #1 Killer of Young Americans; Safety Advocates Urge Governors, State Legislators to Put Lifesaving Laws on 2006 "Must Pass" List

WASHINGTON, D.C. (January 5, 2006) - Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates) today released its 3rd annual highway safety report, "2006 Roadmap to State Highway Safety Laws-Players, Politics and Progress," that rates each state and the District of Columbia on their progress in adopting 14 essential laws to reduce the number one killer of Americans between the ages of four and 34 - highway crashes.

The new study found little to no progress in enactment of these 14 laws despite 6.2 million motor vehicle crashes in 2004 resulting in 42,636 deaths, 3 million injuries and an economic loss of $230 billion nationwide. "This is a public health epidemic by any measure and a political crisis in our state capitals," said Georges Benjamin, M.D., Executive Director of the American Public Health Association.

Advocates has identified 14 basic laws that each state should enact to significantly reduce highway deaths and injuries, such as a primary enforcement seat belt law, an all-rider motorcycle helmet law, a booster seat law covering children up to age 8, a four-point Graduated Drivers License program for new teen drivers, and seven drunk driving countermeasures.

The report found that no state had all 14 traffic safety laws and only 16 states and D.C. earned a passing safety rating of green (good). The green states were Alabama, California, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Washington, plus the District of Columbia. Four states, Alaska, Arkansas, South Dakota and Wyoming earned a red rating (danger - state is falling behind) and thirty (30) states received a yellow rating (caution - needs improvement).

"This year's scores show that 34 states lack fundamental traffic safety laws at a time when deaths and injuries continue unabated," said Judith Lee Stone, President of Advocates. "Most laws are languishing in a sea of political complacency in state capitals as bills fail to be introduced, die or are bottled up in legislative committees or are weakened by opponents."

The Roadmap Report found that:

28 states still need a primary enforcement seat belt law. South Carolina was the only state to enact such a law in 2005. More than half of those killed in motor vehicle crashes are unbelted.

30 states still need an all-rider motorcycle helmet law. Since 1997, motorcycle fatalities have jumped a staggering 89 percent, yet no state adopted an all-rider helmet law in 2005. 15 state legislatures considered helmet repeal measures. States that have repealed their all-rider laws have seen a significant increase in deaths. According to Advocates' 2004 Lou Harris poll, 82 percent of Americans support all-rider helmet laws.

17 states need a booster seat law; 39 states still need to upgrade their booster seat law to protect children up to age 8 or 80 pounds. Last year only two states (WA and WV) enacted Advocates' recommended booster seat law.

49 states do not protect teen drivers with an optimal Graduated Drivers Licensing (GDL) program. This past year only one state - Nevada - has enacted all four elements of a comprehensive Graduated Drivers Licensing (GDL) program: in the learner's permit stage, a six-month holding period and 30-50 hours of adult-supervised driving; in the intermediate stage, a 10:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. nighttime driving restriction and a passenger restriction.

States were rated on seven basic impaired driving laws. In 2005, only seven impaired driving laws recommended by Advocates were passed among all 50 states: two Child Endangerment (MA and MT); two High Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) (MA, TX); three Open Container (CO, IN, MT); and one Repeat Offender law (MA). In 2004, 40 percent of deaths on our highways involved drunk driving.

"Enacting highway safety laws in state legislatures is beginning to look like a board game. A few states move forward, many states are stuck in the same place while other states jump around and sometimes go backwards. The winners and losers are American families but governors and state legislators are playing with their lives," said Jackie Gillan, Vice President of Advocates. "Last year's state legislative activity can best be characterized by distraction, inaction and retraction."

Mary Jagim, an emergency room nurse from Fargo, ND, and prior president of the Emergency Nurses Association participated in the press conference as consumer co-chair of Advocates. Jagim said, "If I told you that hospitals in nearly every state lacked some of the most basic and fundamental emergency room technology and equipment to save lives, the public would be appalled, newspapers would be carrying stories on the front page, governors would be holding press conferences to announce corrective measures, and state legislative leaders would be clamoring to pass bills to fix the problem. And yet, we have the same situation when it comes to protecting the health and safety of families on our streets and highways in states across the country."

With the majority of state legislatures opening their 2006 sessions this month, 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.

"In 2006, with leadership in governors' mansions and state legislatures across the nation, we will improve on this record to draw a different and safer roadmap next year" said Alan Maness, Associate General Counsel, State Farm Insurance Companies. "Enacting federal and state laws to promote highway and auto safety is an effective strategy to reduce needless deaths and injuries.

Advocates' report divided the 14 model laws into four issue categories.

Occupant Protection (2 laws): Primary Enforcement Seat Belt Law and All-Rider Motorcycle Helmet Law.
Child Passenger Safety (1 law): Child Booster Seat Law for ages 4 to 8.
Optimal Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) Program (4 laws): 6-Month Holding Period, 30-50 Hours Supervised Driving, Nighttime Driving Restriction and Passenger Restriction.
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.

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. Partial credit was given for states with booster seat and teen driving laws that did not meet Advocates' optimal definition.

The overall ratings for the four issue sections are:

Green states:
Alabama, California, District of Columbia, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Washington.

Yellow states:
Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Red states:
Alaska, Arkansas, South Dakota and Wyoming.

The report and a summary can be found on the website for Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (, or by clicking HERE.


Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety is a coalition of consumer, health, safety and insurance companies working together to advance highway and auto safety.







This report highlights gaps in Advocates' list of 14 essential and lifesaving highway safety laws and is a call to action for Governors and state legislators. Motor vehicle crashes continue to cause nearly 43,000 deaths and 3 million injuries per year and cost the nation over $230 billion. Passage of the 14 laws identified in Advocates' report will help prevent these tragedies and, at the same time, will save the states billions of dollars in economic costs associated with highway crashes.


(72 pages...please be patient)


In January 2004, Advocates published its first State Roadmap Report to provide guidance to each state on where it stood relative to the rest of the nation in implementing highway safety laws. This year, with few new laws to report, Advocates urges states to set an aggressive highway safety legislative agenda to stem the tide of deaths and injuries on our nation's roadways. More than any other action, public policy interventions change behavior and have immediate impact on improving outcomes. The laws recommended by Advocates save lives and save money.

Deaths from motor vehicle crashes changed very little this past year, (42,636 in 2004, from 42,643 in 2003) and motor vehicle crashes are still the leading cause of death for all Americans ages two to 33, killing 117 people every day. By any definition, this is truly a public health epidemic. If each highway safety law is considered a vaccine to inoculate our children, our friends, and our communities against a leading cause of death, every law listed in our Roadmap report should be at the top of each state's legislative agenda in 2006.

Occupant Protection
Seat Belts: Only one state, South Carolina, adopted a primary enforcement seat belt law; 28 states still need to adopt this important law.

Motorcycle Helmets: Currently, 30 states do not require all-rider helmet law protection. In most of the 20 states and DC with the optimal law, anti-helmet groups battle each year to repeal the all-rider helmet requirement. No state passed a motorcycle helmet law in 2005

Booster Seats: While five states passed booster seat laws (CT, ID, NM), only two of the states enacted Advocates' recommended booster seat law that covers children up to age eight (WA, WV). Out of 33 states and the District of Columbia (DC) with booster seat laws, only 11 states and DC have the recommended optimal booster seat law.

Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL)
Minimal improvement occurred in the enactment of laws to improve teen driver safety. A total of 15 new laws, covering four major GDL provisions, were passed nationwide. Only one nighttime restriction (NV), nine passenger restriction (CO, CA, CT, HI, MD, MT, OK, RI, WY), four 30-50 hours supervised driving (MD, MT, OK, WY), and four 6-month holding period provisions (HI, MD, MT, NV) were passed nationwide. Only one state, Nevada, has adopted all four of Advocates' optimal GDL provisions.

Impaired Driving
Only seven impaired driving laws recommended by Advocates were passed among all 50 states: two Child Endangerment (MA, MT); two High BAC (MA, TX); three Open Container (CO, IN, MT); and, one Repeat Offender law (MA).

Please Read the Full Report to Find Out More About:

  • Advocates' Grading Criteria
  • Complete State Listing of Existing Highway Safety Laws
  • Definitions of the 14 Lifesaving Laws
  • In-depth State-by-State Highway Safety Information
  • Emerging Trends in Highway Safety Legislation

For more information on this report, please contact Jeremy Gunderson at or (202) 408-1711

01/05/2006 - 09:59
March 2, 2006 (202) 408-1711 x27

Safety Group Calls for Report to Congress on Maverick Buses and
Urges Dramatic Improvements in Weak Federal Agency Oversight

Washington, D.C. -- Jacqueline S. Gillan, Vice President of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates), testified today before the Subcommittee on Highways, Transit, and Pipelines, House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, U.S. House of Representatives, on the safety of what are called "curbside" buses.

This is a relatively new transportation phenomenon of bargain-fare, inter-city motorcoaches that pick up and discharge passengers on urban, downtown street corners instead of bus terminals. While curbside buses are subject to federal regulation, and their drivers must have a commercial drivers license (CDL) with a special bus endorsement, they have gained a reputation for sub-standard vehicle and traffic safety practices. Some operators do not even have federal registration.

Gillan testified that little is known about curbside motorcoach operations, including how many companies are evading federal and state safety requirements, and how much oversight the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the states conduct, especially regarding dangers associated with their operation. "At the top of our list of recommendations," she said, "is for this committee to require a detailed oversight report on curbside motorcoach operating safety. The federal government should conduct an in-depth evaluation of these motorcoach operations to identify how many there are, how they successfully evade federal and state safety compliance and inspection, and what needs to be done to ensure a high level of public safety."

Her statement also criticized the lack of FMCSA oversight activity, including the absence of regular and thorough inspections and adequate bus driver training, and stated that the agency "suffers from major data deficiencies that limit identification of unsafe motorcoach carriers and drivers." Gillan emphasized that "Despite the widespread use of motorcoach transportation in our everyday lives, the public is completely in the dark about the safety of motorcoach operators because of chronic and continuing failures by the FMCSA to exercise its legal authority to regulate the safety of this industry."

"Both FMCSA and the states are failing to properly oversee and evaluate motorcoach safety at every level of analysis - company, driver, and vehicle," an irate Gillan continued. "It is unimaginable that this kind of government dereliction of public safety assurance and oversight would be tolerated for commercial airline travel."

Citing several examples of severe motor coach crashes in recent years and state data deficiencies, Advocates' testimony ended with additional recommendations (besides the report to Congress): Require stringent state bus inspection programs; upgrade safety data reporting; increase compliance reviews; improve testing requirements on the knowledge and skills needed to operate a motorcoach; and require behind-the-wheel training.

A complete copy of the testimony is available on Advocates' website:


For further information, contact Jeremy Gunderson, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety,
202-408-1711 or

Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety is a coalition of consumer, health, safety and insurance companies working together to advance highway and auto safety.


03/02/2006 - 10:13
                                                                                            CONTACT: Jeremy Gunderson
May 24, 2006 (202) 408-1711 x27


WASHINGTON, D.C. - On the eve of a critical highway safety vote in Texas, two groups are urging members of the Texas Transportation Commission to maintain existing posted speed limits throughout the state.

In a letter submitted today (see letter) to the Texas Transportation Commission, both organizations, Public Citizen and Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, urged commissioners not to raise the speed limit to 80mph in some parts of the state.

Legislation passed by the Texas legislature in 2005, and becoming effective last September, granted the commission the authority to raise the daytime speed limit in portions of specific counties with a population density of less than 15 people per square mile. The nighttime speed limit would remain at 65mph.

"Nearly 40 percent of the 3,600 people killed on Texas roads in 2004 were speed-related crashes," said Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety President Judie Stone. "With these types of crashes costing Texas nearly $3.5 billion annually, raising speed limits to 80mph is a deadly, dangerous and irresponsible act."

"The Texas Commission is making this change to accommodate lawbreakers," said Joan Claybrook, president of Public Citizen,. "Are they making the same changes for drunk or hit-and-run drivers?"

Tom "Smitty" Smith, director of Public Citizen's Texas office said, "You can repeal the speed limit law but you can't repeal the law of physics. People don't survive crashes at these excessive speeds."

The commission is expected to vote on the speed limit change on Thursday.


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 safer. Public Citizen is a national, nonprofit consumer advocacy organization. For more information, please visit and

05/24/2006 - 10:31
June 23, 2006 (202) 408-1711 x27


Washington, DC - Following days of speculation and hints of her intent, Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm today laid to rest a dangerous piece of legislation that would have lifted 37-year-old all-rider motorcycle helmet use requirements throughout the state. The Michigan legislature sent the bill to the governor's desk when the Assembly passed it on June 7 by a vote of 66 to 37. An identical Senate version was passed in 2005.

"We thank Governor Granholm for her strong political leadership in vetoing SB 297. Any pushback she receives from motorcyclists against helmet laws is more than compensated by the lives and costs to the state she has saved today," said Judith Lee Stone, president of Advocates.

An intense lobbying effort by local and national groups in favor of keeping the law helped bolster Granholm's decision to veto SB 297. Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety spearheaded a letter to Granholm urging her to veto the bill, signed by numerous leaders of medical, public health and safety and safety organizations, auto manufacturers and the insurance industry.
SB 297 would have made wearing a motorcycle helmet optional for those 21 and over. Such laws that exist in the majority of states are virtually unenforceable. Every state that has chosen to repeal its all-rider helmet law has experienced a dramatic drop in helmet use accompanied by a tragic increase in deaths and brain injuries. Since 1969, Michigan's all-rider motorcycle helmet law has resulted in fewer per-capita motorcycle injuries and deaths than in states without such a law.


Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety is a coalition of consumer, health, safety and insurance companies working together to advance highway and auto safety.

Letter To Governor Granholm

06/23/2006 - 10:49
  CONTACT: Jeremy Gunderson
August 22, 2006 (202) 408-1711 x27

Statement of Jacqueline Gillan, Vice President
Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates)
On the Release of Fatality Figures for 2005 Motor Vehicle Crashes

Today's release of 2005 data on motor vehicle deaths and injuries indicates that our leaders in government agencies, Congress and state legislatures must get serious about taking tougher actions to address the number one killer of all Americans ages 4 to 34. Last year, there were 43,443 deaths on our highways, the largest number of fatalities since 1990.

Motorcycle rider deaths increased for the eighth year in a row. Compared to 1997, there has been a 115 percent increase in motorcycle rider deaths. Pedestrian and bicycle fatalities increased last year. Yet again, the total number of passenger vehicle occupants killed in rollover crashes increased and more than half of those killed in crashes were not wearing a seat belt. The 2005 data shows that the U.S. Department of Transportation failed to make any meaningful progress in meeting their goal to reduce by half the number of truck crash deaths and injuries by the end of 2008.

If the U.S. Department of Transportation were releasing data on aviation fatalities that mirrored the 2005 death and injury toll on our nation's highways there would be calls for stronger government actions, legislative oversight hearings, and speedy enactment of laws and other measures to advance safety. Instead, legislation and government actions that have the potential to prevent crashes and save thousands of lives and billions of taxpayer dollars continue to languish in Congress and state legislatures.

The legislative landscape for better safety laws is filled with detours, potholes, and dead end routes. Despite alarming increases in motorcycle deaths and skyrocketing medical costs for brain-injured motorcyclists only 20 states and the District of Columbia currently have an all-rider helmet law. This year, there were 7 attempts in state legislatures to repeal or weaken existing all-rider helmet laws. Furthermore, only half of the states and the District of Columbia have a primary enforcement seat belt law. Only three states, Mississippi, Alaska and Kentucky enacted primary enforcement seat belt laws this year. At this glacial pace, it will be 9 years or more before every state has this lifesaving law.

Summary of Motor Vehicle Traffic Crash Fatalities for 2005

  • Deaths in motor vehicle crashes jumped 1.4 percent over 2004, to 43,443 deaths in 2005 - the highest level since 1990.
  • And, the fatal crash rate also surged to 1.47 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled (100 MVMT) to match the jump in the number of deaths in 2005.
  • Motorcycle deaths dramatically increased in a single year, the 8th year in a row. Deaths soared an incredible 115 percent since 1997-- 2,437 more deaths than in 1997 - to a total of 4,553 deaths. Motorcycle deaths now represent fully 10.5 percent of all annual motor vehicle fatalities.
  • Rollover crashes again took more lives than in the year before, a 2.1 percent increase for 2005 over 2004, with 10,816 people losing their lives. The 2005 number of rollover deaths in vans was especially disturbing. This is a 14 percent increase in van rollover deaths in a single year.
  • There was essentially no improvement in large truck crash deaths, with the 2005 figure of 5,212 fatalities virtually unchanged from the 5,235 deaths in 2004. However, there was a 4.8 percent leap in truck occupant deaths in a single year, from 766 in 2004 to 803 in 2005.
  • Pedestrian fatalities increased for all age groups in 2005 except for ages 4 to 7 and 8 to 15.
  • The total number of alcohol-related fatalities, the rate, (measured per 100 million vehicle miles traveled) and the percent of all motor vehicle fatalities essentially remained the same indicating no progress.



Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety is a coalition of consumer, health, safety and insurance companies working together to advance highway and auto safety.

08/22/2006 - 10:56

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