FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 2, 2020
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Statement of Cathy Chase, President, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, Avoid Driving Dangers Over the Independence Day Holiday – Keep Families Safe
The approaching July 4th holiday will be unique due to a pandemic that prompted a stark change in our daily routines and brought about notable changes in driving patterns and behavior that impact safety. As states loosen restrictions and families get ready to celebrate the July 4 holiday, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates) urges all motorists to drive safely and responsibly.
While the first few months of the pandemic were characterized by large decreases in traffic volume, alarming increases in speeding and reckless driving were also observed. To ensure everyone enjoys the holiday safely, drivers need to: make sure all passengers are buckled up; drive sober; put away distractions; obey speed limits; stay alert; and, be especially mindful of pedestrians, bicyclists and other vulnerable road users.
More than 36,000 people were killed in 2019 and millions more are injured each year. Commonsense highway safety laws are effective at reducing this horrific annual toll. Advocates tracks states’ progress toward the enactment of 16 proven traffic safety laws. The “2020 Focus on Safety, Roadmap of State Highway Safety Laws,” found that nearly 400 optimal laws still need to be enacted. These include: 31 states that do not require all occupants to buckle up; 35 states with inadequate child passenger safety laws; widespread gaps in laws on graduated driver licensing (GDL) for novice teen drivers; 31 states that lack a law to require all motorcycle riders to wear helmets; and, 27 states missing critical impaired driving prevention laws. Additionally, while many states have sought to address the well-known threat of distracted driving, four states have yet to adopt a primary enforcement all-driver text messaging restriction (MO, MT, NE, OH), and 19 states are still missing an optimal cell phone restriction for novice teen drivers. It is important for state legislatures to prioritize closing these safety gaps.
Advocates applauds South Dakota for upgrading its all-driver texting ban to primary enforcement and enacting a number of laws to improve the state’s GDL program. Additionally, the New York Legislature passed a bill to require all occupants to buckle up, and we urge Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) to sign it into law.
Unfortunately, a bill that would decrease safety is also pending gubernatorial action. Missouri Gov. Mike Parson (R) is now considering a repeal of the state’s lifesaving all-rider motorcycle helmet requirement. Advocates and a strong coalition of local and national public health and safety groups have weighed in to urge him to veto the bill containing the helmet repeal provision, House Bill (HB) 1963.
During the pandemic, states have grappled with backlogs at their divisions of motor vehicles (DMVs) resulting in a new road safety concern, the temporary waiving of GDL requirements for on-the-road testing. We urge states to avoid doing so if alternative proven assessments are not in place to determine a novice driver’s readiness to obtain a license to drive independently.
Lastly, yesterday the U.S. House of Representatives passed the monumental Moving Forward Act, H.R. 2. It included numerous safety advances for road users across the Nation. Of particular import is a groundbreaking provision that would require certain advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) features in all new cars. These include automatic emergency braking, blind spot warning and lane departure warning, installed as standard equipment, subject to a minimum performance standard. Each technology has been proven to reduce motor vehicle crashes. AEB in particular will help to overcome or mitigate common behavioral issues such as distracted, alcohol-impaired, drowsy or drugged driving. These features are available today, but often as part of luxury add-on packages or on high end models. The legislation also includes a requirement for advanced technology to prevent drunk driving, an all-too-frequent occurrence on the roads during the July 4 holiday. Further, the bill requires all new cars be equipped with detection and alert systems to prevent children from being unknowingly left in cars or climbing into them and getting trapped and suffering “hot car” deaths or injuries. For a full review of the safety provisions in the Moving Forward Act, please see Advocates’ statement.
While 4th of July celebrations may look different this year as the Nation continues to observe social distancing and other precautions, what remains the same is the risks posed on our roads. However, the potential for progress offered by the passage of strong state laws coupled with the remarkable promise of the safety technologies advanced in H.R. 2 provide an unprecedented opportunity to make meaningful reductions in motor vehicle crashes. We call on lawmakers to seize this chance to save lives.
Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety is an alliance of consumer, medical, public health, law enforcement and safety groups and insurance companies and agents working together to make America’s roads safer. Advocates’ mission is the adoption of federal and state laws, policies and programs that prevent motor vehicle crashes, save lives, reduce injuries, and contain costs.