FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 2, 2019
Contact: Pete Daniels 202-408-1711, 301-442-2249 (c) or firstname.lastname@example.org
Statement of Cathy Chase, President, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety on Independence Day Holiday Travel
Deadliest Time for Road Travel Should Highlight the Urgent Need for States to Take Action to Reduce Risky and Dangerous Behavior on our Highways
As the July 4th holiday weekend approaches, police departments across the country are preparing to step up enforcement of highway laws, knowing that a rush of travelers and holiday celebrations will increase the likelihood of crashes, injuries, and deaths. Motor vehicle fatalities during this period rose above 600 in 2017 alone, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Thirty-nine percent of those fatalities (237 people) occurred in alcohol-impaired crashes. Yet, proven countermeasures are readily available to curb drunk driving, such as laws requiring ignition interlock devices (IID) for all offenders. Thirty-three states have already enacted an all-offender IID law including Kentucky which added this lifesaving law earlier this year. New Jersey is close to adding an all-offender IID law and becoming the next state to take action to decrease drunk driving and protect its citizens and visitors. Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates) recommends the enactment of this and additional commonsense laws and regulations that can reduce dangerous driving behaviors and preventable tragedies during this heightened time of danger and throughout the year.
Advocates has identified 16 fundamental traffic safety laws covering occupant protection, child passenger safety, graduated driver licensing (GDL) programs for teen and novice drivers, impaired driving and distracted driving. Unfortunately, no state has enacted all 16 optimal laws. The good news is that several states have taken action to protect the motoring public by enacting new traffic safety laws this year, including:
- Arizona: All-driver texting ban
- Arkansas: Graduated driver licensing (GDL) cell phone ban for novice teen drivers
- Florida: All-driver texting ban
- Kentucky: All-offender ignition interlock device (IID) law
- Louisiana: A requirement to keep kids in rear-facing safety seats through age two or longer
- New Mexico: Child endangerment law to add or strengthen the penalty for driving drunk with a minor
- Washington: A requirement to keep kids in rear-facing safety seats through age two or longer and booster seats through 57 inches in height
- Washington DC: A requirement to keep kids in rear-facing safety seats through age two or longer
While most state legislatures have adjourned for this year’s session, we urge the seven state legislatures (CA, MA, MI, NJ, OH, PA and WI) and the District of Columbia (DC) Council still convened to pursue a safe roads agenda. Moreover, Advocates calls upon legislators and governors across the country to make plans now to ensure highway safety is a top priority during the next legislative session. Just under 400 dangerous highway safety deficits exist across the nation, according to Advocates’ criteria for optimal laws:
- 36 states are missing a rear-facing through age two law
- 35 states have insufficient requirements for child booster seat use
- 31 states do not require all motorcycle riders to wear helmets
- 31 states do not require all vehicle passengers to wear seat belts
- 19 states and DC do not prohibit novice teen drivers from using cell phones
- 17 states do not require interlock ignition devices to be installed in vehicles after a first drunk driving offense
- 12 states do not ban open containers of alcohol in vehicles
- Five states need an all-driver text messaging ban
- Two states have not passed a child endangerment law for people driving under the influence
- Every state and DC are missing at least one critical part of a comprehensive teen GDL law which optimally includes six key safety components
Additionally, the tragic issue of parents and caretakers unknowingly leaving children in hot cars to their peril persists. Reps. Tim Ryan (D-OH), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), and Peter King (R-NY) just introduced legislation, the Hot Cars Act of 2019 (H.R. 3593), that would require new cars to have detection and alert systems to help prevent heart-wrenching vehicular heatstroke. In 2018 these deaths hit record levels with at least 52 children being killed. Already this year at least 17 kids have died in hot cars. With the hottest days of summer still ahead, we call on Congress to pass this bipartisan bill to save the lives of some of our most vulnerable passengers.
Each day on average, 100 people are killed and nearly 7,500 more are injured on our Nation’s roads. Yet, proven solutions continue to languish. The fallout from this void of leadership is felt even more acutely during the July 4th holiday, when a time of celebration too frequently turns into a time of tragedy. We call upon our state and federal elected officials to take swift action on these proven safety advances to stop the needless tragedies occurring on our roadways.
To learn more about improvements that your state needs, please visit our website for a state-by-state breakdown.