Advocates Releases 2018 Roadmap of State Highway Safety Laws

  • January 22, 2018
150 150 Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety

For Immediate Release: January 22, 2018

CONTACT: Eric Naing, 217-493-8294,; Bill Bronrott, 202-270-4415,

Download a PDF of the full Report

Download a PDF of the “Best and Worst States”

Download Press Kit including Speakers’ Statements

Watch the Webcast of the News Conference

Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety Releases

Annual Roadmap Report Grading Highway Safety Laws in Every State and DC

Adopting Proven State Safety Laws and Existing Advanced Vehicle Technology is

“Safest Route” to Curbing 100 Daily Crash Deaths and 6,500 Injuries

Today, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates), released the 2018 Roadmap of State Highway Safety Laws. This is the 15th edition of an annual report that rates all 50 states and the District of Columbia (D.C.) on the adoption of 16 fundamental traffic safety laws. This “report card” exposes over 400 missing safety laws nationwide. It is an essential tool that state elected officials should use to improve roadway safety for all motorists as 2018 state legislative sessions kick off.

Additionally, the Report highlights the need for advanced vehicle technologies in all cars.  Automakers and technology company executives have been promoting autonomous vehicles, (AVs) also known as driverless cars, as a panacea that will end vehicle fatalities. However, even they admit that driverless car technology is still many years away from a safe mass deployment. Meanwhile, known and lifesaving equipment exists right now that can save lives, prevent debilitating injuries, and eliminate the billions in related costs to society. They include collision avoidance and automated enforcement as well as means to improve large truck and rear seat safety.

“Advocates has spent decades fighting for vehicle safety technology and we too believe driverless cars have the potential to one day make our roads a dramatically safer place,” said Advocates’ President Cathy Chase. “Yet, in the meantime, approximately 100 people are killed and 6,500 more are injured in crashes every day, on average, even though we have proven safety solutions highlighted in our Roadmap Report. Further, this comes with a significant economic burden on society. Each person in America pays an annual ‘crash tax’ of $784. When loss of life, pain, and decreased quality of life are factored in, society shoulders $836 billion a year. This significant emotional and economic toll must be addressed with urgency and immediacy.”

The 2018 Roadmap Report paves a dual-track path to preventing deadly crashes. The first track involves the adoption of effective state highway safety laws that encourage the use of seat belts, motorcycle helmets, and child safety seats. These laws also provide safeguards for teen, distracted, and impaired drivers. Colleen Sheehey-Church, National President of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) said, “MADD is pleased to work with the Advocates to encourage and advocate before federal and state legislators to stop the tragedies on our roadways. It will take all of us working together to ensure that we are protected from drunk drivers and other dangerous behavior that pose a threat every day to our children, our families and our future.”

The second track to safer roads, safer vehicles, and safer drivers outlined in the Roadmap Report is the widespread adoption of advanced safety technologies that are already on the market. This includes collision avoidance, automated speed and red-light enforcement systems, and ignition interlocks. Jackie Gillan, President Emeritus of Advocates, said, “The reality of our entire vehicle population being replaced with cars operated by computers instead of humans is still decades away.  And, until that happens we face the reality that motor vehicle crashes will continue to kill hundreds of thousands of people, cause millions of injuries and cost billions of dollars in societal costs. Our country is approaching 9 years without a single death caused by a commercial aviation crash. Yet, today, we can’t go 15 minutes without a single death caused by a motor vehicle crash. Going forward, the most promising and pragmatic strategy at hand is adopting safety laws and advancing available safety technologies, as highlighted in Advocates’ 2018 Roadmap Report. We cannot allow lawmakers and policymakers to hide behind tomorrow’s promise of driverless cars by prolonging adoption of laws and technology that could be saving thousands of lives today.”

Advocates’ Report gives every state and D.C. a rating in five categories (Occupant Protection, Child Passenger Safety, Teen Driving, Impaired Driving, and Distracted Driving) as well as an overall grade of: Green (Good); Yellow (Caution); and Red (Danger). With 13 out of 16 safety laws on the books, Rhode Island earned the top green rating. Other states with a green rating include Delaware, Oregon, Washington, California, Louisiana, and the District of Columbia. States that earn a red rating lag seriously behind when it comes to adopting Advocates’ recommended laws. South Dakota, having adopted just two of 16 safety laws, tops this year’s worst list. Other states with a red rating include Wyoming, Arizona, Missouri, Montana, Florida, Nebraska, Virginia, Idaho, Iowa, New Hampshire, Ohio, and Vermont.

Nearly 250 key safety laws have been passed by states since the first edition of the Roadmap Report was published in 2004, but as this year’s Report shows, lawmakers in even the green-rated states have more work to do. Alan Maness, Vice President of Federal Affairs for State Farm Insurance and an Advocates Board Member, stated, “We urge state lawmakers to seize this opportunity to close safety gaps that put everyone at risk and make passage of these laws a top legislative priority this year.” Maness further said, “The mounting toll of fatalities, injuries, and costs should be a major wake-up call to lawmakers at all levels of government. The problems we are facing are clear but so are the solutions. State Farm is committed to protecting families. We are committed to making our streets safe and preventing crashes. And, we are committed to supporting the passage of laws that will reduce the death and injury toll on our streets and highways.”

One major change for the 2018 Roadmap, is that states are now graded on whether they have a law that requires child passengers to be restrained in a rear facing safety seat through age two. Janette Fennell, Consumer Co-Chair of Advocates and the Founder and President of, said at the release, “Children younger than two are at an elevated risk of injuries because of their body structure, and rear-facing car seats provide the best protection in a crash.”

Though 13 laws were passed in 2017 that met the criteria of the Roadmap Report, 407 more laws are missing across the nation:

  • Primary Enforcement of Seat Belts: 16 states lack an optimal primary enforcement seat belt law for front seat passengers, while 31 states need an optimal primary enforcement seat belt law for rear seat passengers;
  • All-Rider Motorcycle Helmet Law: 31 states need an optimal all-rider motorcycle helmet law;
  • Rear Facing Through Age Two: 41 states and D.C. are missing a rear facing through age two child protection law;
  • Booster Seats: 35 states and DC need an optimal booster seat law;
  • Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) for teen drivers: 192 GDL laws need to be adopted to ensure the safety of novice drivers. No state has all six optimal provisions of a GDL law;
  • Impaired Driving: 32 important impaired driving laws covering all-offender ignition interlocks, child endangerment, and open containers are needed;
  • All-Driver Text Messaging Restriction: seven states need an optimal all-driver texting ban; and,
  • GDL Cell Phone Restriction: 19 states and D.C. lack optimal laws restricting cell phone use for teen drivers.

Fennell also stated, “Prevention is the key to achieving meaningful progress in saving lives and reversing the upward trend of motor vehicle deaths. I urge every state elected official to pick up this report and take action to enact proven state traffic safety laws that advance the use of effective safety technologies.”

The 16 optimal laws recommended and rated by the report are backed by rigorous scientific studies and data analysis, as well as decades of real-world experience. Unfortunately, road users continue to die while far too many states choose not to adopt these practical laws. Melissa Wandall, President of the National Coalition of Safer Roads and Founder of The Mark Wandall Foundation, added, “It makes no sense to me that the commonsense solutions provided in this report are not embraced and enacted with urgency.” She continued, “I traveled from Florida to come here today to join Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety and the other tremendous safety leaders on this panel to urge policymakers, community leaders, and citizen advocates to take action to save lives. You don’t have to wait until tragedy strikes your family when we have the safety solutions at hand.”

Motor vehicle crashes killed over 37,000 people in 2016 and preliminary figures for the first half of 2017 don’t reveal any substantial reversal to this carnage. This is major public health epidemic by any measure. Dr. Georges Benjamin, Executive Director of the American Public Health Association, said, “As with every other public health challenge, we must look to solutions that are shown to be effective in saving lives and preventing injuries. The Roadmap Report is a compilation of lifesaving and cost-saving strategies for every state to use right now.” Dr. Benjamin added, “A doctor would never needlessly withhold an effective treatment that could save a life or mitigate an injury. Similarly, legislators shouldn’t delay the implementation of these proven cures to the public health crisis occurring every day on our roadways.”

The 2018 Roadmap of State Highway Safety Laws, speaker statements, handouts and video of the news conference can be found at